Considering popular opinion, and by way of logic, one could be urged to believe that the major factor that affects the movability of a wheelchair user is the weight of the user, as well as perhaps the nature of the material used in constructing the frames of the wheelchair. While these play significant effects, there are other players worthy of noting in terms of the ease of moving in a wheelchair, such as the makeup of the wheelchair itself. That is the equipment components, the wheelchair’s configuration, the position of the rear wheels and their alignment, the environment of use, the user’s characteristic needs, and a number of others.
Once these factors are carefully weighed, you will be comfortable with making the best use of your manual wheelchair, and also become more efficient with your mobility in a wheelchair.
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1. Backrest Height
The backrest indicates the support you can lean against while sitting. Note that this is not dependent on the weight of the user, as wheelchairs are often built with backrests whose vertical extension cannot be altered. The backrest configuration shapes the trunk support. There are two possible situations: a higher backrest would provide greater support, as it is able to accommodate the user’s back, it infringes on the extension of shoulders, which in the long run is not desirable, as it is needful to own a firm grip on the rims of the wheel once the wheelchair is subjected to motion. Likewise, if the backrest is lower, there is freedom of movements of the arms, but back support is limited, and so is the posterior’s stability. Thus, the user would enjoy easy navigation of the wheels, but there is the risk of an accumulation of back pain as a result of limited posterior support. Thus, it is needful for the user to take into account his specifications, before opting for a particular choice of backrest.
2. Wheels Alignment
Here, we address how weight is shared between the front and rear wheels. The principle in operation is that, the wheels with the greater weight proportion influences friction. The greater the weight on the front wheel, the more the friction. This will require an application of effort, much more than he would, from the user, for propulsion. The benefit is that on the long run, stability of the wheelchair increases. This set-up is advisable for people who do not run an active life and thus would not have need for frequent movements. Standard wheelchairs usually have their weights split equally between the front and rear wheels. If the weight leans more on the right, the user would require the barest efforts to propel, but there is the risk of less stability, as the wheelchair could easily be propelled. This is recommended for users who require consistent movements.
3. Frame Design and Material
As is the case with the other factors, this largely depends on the user. Aluminum is the preferred component of wheelchair frames, as it does not require special techniques in manufacturing. Of recent, titanium and carbon-fiber are materials being used in making frames. An active user might require light frames as the reduction in the unit mass of the frames helps with the propulsion by trimming down the force applied on the rims. Titanium holds a better strength-to-weight ratio than aluminum and is a natural preference for these users. The design of frames is either folding or rigid. For less active users, the emphasis is stability of the wheelchair. Wheelchairs with folding frames are suggested to be the best choice, as they are more stable and larger, as predicted. Rigid frames could also be considered, as they are lighter and improve movability performance, but are not as stable as folding frames.
4. Environment of Use
Having established the role of the rear wheels in the general performance of a wheelchair, we must note that the terrain of use would influence the choice of wheel tires. Being of two types, pneumatic and solid, solid tires hold no risk of being punctured, but do not boast good vibration absorption, as is the case with pneumatic varieties. The rolling resistance determines whether the user would be required to propel harder or not. Pneumatic tires tend to reduce rolling resistance, aiding self-propulsion by keeping the wheels rolling until another push is needed, contributing to efficiency of mobility. Solid tires are a go-to when operating in a rough terrain with stability being the consideration, and not ease of movement. Active users would prefer wheelchairs of the former make, while those who are tentatively sedentary might find solid tires comfortable.
The positioning of the leg during movement is another factor that holds its own effects, as different scenarios contribute differently. When selecting a wheelchair, you should be aware of the lifestyle you currently run, and allow this direct your choice.
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