Rigid or folding frame manual wheelchair?

What should you look for when choosing a rigid or folding frame manual wheelchair?

When buying your mobility, there is a difficult question – should you choose a rigid or folding frame manual wheelchair?  Choosing a manual wheelchair is going to be a challenge which need not be as hard as it once was.  We’re here to help, with our little guide to identifying the things you need to look for.

Crucial to remember is that regardless of frame, most wheelchairs have quick-release wheels, meaning you can achieve a compact wheelchair quite quickly.  This brings us neatly to our first point:

Storage in Transit

Many wheelchair users that drive will put the wheelchair on the front passenger seat.  Often a rigid frame is easier to lift over, because of the weight and that it is unlikely to open during a lift.  Quick release wheels mean that you can take the wheels on or off in moments and have the entire chair in the car quickly.

Some ultra-light folding wheelchairs have locking mechanisms to ensure they don’t open during lifting.

Questions to ask:

  • Does the backrest fold, even if you have a removable backrest?
  • How heavy is the frame?
  • Do the brakes protrude outside of the frame without the wheels?
  • Does the frame fit between you and the steering wheel?

Lifestyle

Everyone is unique.  Some people have a little more mobility, others may have a little more strength.  You may be a parent, an employee, an employer – our circumstances are all different.  If you have a family, you might want a wheelchair that can fit in the boot with all the bits that the family need too, such as a buggy, bags, shopping and so on.

Questions to ask:

  • Is there a hoist-point for a boot lift?
  • How easy is it to get in the boot with the wheels attached?
  • How quickly does it fold or unfold?

Moving around

A rigid frame wheelchair has traditionally been seen as a more stable ride.  More recently, ultra-light folding wheelchairs have been equally stable.  You should consider how you will be moving around and if you will find frame-flex to be a significant issue.  We would always recommend a test drive around your main areas of home, work and leisure to see how the chair will react in your own environment.

Back support

Depending on the amount you have to spend, you might be looking for a bit more back support than the standard model.  This could be strap-based lumbar support with better upholstery or a fully-fitted seperate back rest.  Rigid frame wheelchairs allow for more flexibility in the removal of such items, whilst a folding frame wheelchair may require the upholstery to support the opening and closing nature of the wheelchair.

Questions to ask:

  • Is the wheelchair compatable with your back rest needs?
  • Does it have a folding option seperate to the rigid or folding frame?
  • Do you need to consider push handles as part of the overall wheelchair?

Foot rest

More modern ultra-light wheelchairs that fold need to gain the stability from somewhere – and if it isn’t a bigger frame then it will likely be in a foot rest.  In order to obtain this support, automatic folding foot rests mean that the wheelchair has continual frame support, meaning better rigidity for the wheelchair.  Other alternatives include a folding foot rest that fits the entire width of the wheelchair.

Questions to ask:

  • Does the foot rest fit with your own footwear choices?
  • Does it fold easily and quickly?
  • Does it feel solid when in use or release itself without you intending it to?

So – folding or rigid frame?  Hopefully you have some useful questions for choosing your manual wheelchair.

We’ll be telling you when we’ve reviewed a wheelchair

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