A wheelchair is a wheeled mobility device in which the user sits. The device is propelled either manually (by pushing the wheels with the hands) or via various automated systems. Wheelchairs are used by people for whom walking is difficult or impossible due to illness (mental or physical), injury, or disability.
Wheelchairs are often variations on this basic design, but there are many types of wheelchairs and they are often highly customized for the individual user's needs. The seat size (width and depth), seat-to-floor height, footrests/leg rests, front caster outriggers, adjustable backrests, controls, and many other features can be customized on or added to, many basic models, while some users, often those with specialized needs, may have wheelchairs custom-built.
Various optional accessories are available, such as anti-tip bars or wheels, safety belts, adjustable backrests, tilt and/or recline features, extra support for limbs or neck, mounts or carrying devices for crutches, walkers or oxygen tanks, drink holders, and clothing protectors.
Manual wheelchairs are those that require human power to move them. Many manual wheelchairs can be folded for storage or placement into a vehicle, although modern wheelchairs are just as likely to be rigid framed.
Light weight and high cost are related in the manual wheelchairs market. At the low-cost end, heavy, tubular steel chairs with sling seats and little adaptability dominate. Users may be temporarily disabled or using such a chair as a loaner or simply unable to afford better. Heavy unmodified manual chairs are common as "loaners" at large facilities such as airports, amusement parks and shopping centers. In a higher price range and more commonly used by persons with long-term disabilities, are major manufacturer lightweight chairs with more options. The high end of the market contains ultra-light models, extensive seating options and accessories, all-terrain features, and so forth.
Three general styles of electric powered chairs (EPWs) exist: rear, center, front wheel driven or four wheel driven. Each style has particular handling characteristics. EPWs are also divided by seat type; some models resemble manual chairs, with a sling-style seat and frame, whereas others have 'captain's chair' seating like that of an automobile. EPWs run the gamut from small and portable models, which can be folded or disassembled, to very large and heavy full-featured chairs (these are often called 'rehab' chairs).
EPWs may be designed specifically for indoor use, outdoor use, or both. They are generally prescribed for persons who have difficulty using a manual chair due to arm, hand, shoulder or more general disabling conditions and do not have the leg strength to propel a manual chair with their feet. A person with full function of the arms and upper torso will generally be prescribed a manual chair, or find that their insurance will not cover an EPW.
This wheelchair allows users to enter the water and provide a better mobility in the sand. There are lots of different models available. In many countries in Europe where the Accessible Tourism is well set, many beaches are wheelchair accessible and provide this kind of wheelchairs to clients free of charge.
A standing wheelchair is one that supports the user in a nearly standing position. They can be used as both a wheelchair and a standing frame, allowing the user to sit or stand in the wheelchair as they wish. They often go from sitting to standing with a hydraulic pump or electric-powered assist.
A bariatric wheelchair is one designed to support larger weights; most standard chairs are designed to support no more than 250 lbs. on average.
Pediatric wheelchairs are another available subset of wheelchairs.
Disabled athletes use streamlined sport wheelchairs for disabled sports that require speed and agility, such as basketball, rugby, tennis and racing. Each wheelchair sport tends to use specific types of wheelchairs, and these no longer look like their everyday cousins. They are usually non-folding (in order to increase solidity), with a pronounced angle for the wheels (which provides stability during a sharp turn) and made of composite, lightweight materials. Sport wheelchairs are not generally for everyday use, and are often a 'second' chair specifically for sport use, although some users prefer the sport options for everyday.