There are many conditions and injuries that can make it hard or impossible to walk. Your doctor or another member of your medical team might recommend a wheelchair or power wheelchair to help you get around. There are different kinds of wheelchairs for different needs, including:
- Manual wheelchairs. These wheelchairs are powered by using your hands to turn the wheels, or having someone push you. They are smaller than electric wheelchairs, but you need to be strong enough to push yourself or have someone who can push you.
- Electric power wheelchairs. These wheelchairs are controlled by an electric motor. You can push a joystick to move forward, backward, or turn around. These wheelchairs are heavier and bigger than manual wheelchairs, but you can control them on your own and only need to be able to push buttons to go.
Since you might be spending a lot of time in your wheelchair or might need to use it for the rest of your life, getting a proper fitting will help make sure the wheelchair is as comfortable as possible for you. A trained medical device technician can:
- Work with you on the fitting process
- Help provide you the right type and model of wheelchair
- Provide education and training on using the wheelchair
Most wheelchairs aren’t designed for specific people. Instead, they are made to be adjusted for different body sizes and conditions. A wheelchair fitting is a process you can help you figure out what parts of the wheelchair need to be changed for you.
For specialty power wheelchairs, a special technician performs a very detailed fitting that tailors the chair to fit your body and needs. Otherwise, a manual wheelchair is provided to a person based on height, weight, and seat width.
During the wheelchair fitting, your technician can help you decide on the right:
- Cushions. Wheelchair cushions can make you more comfortable and stop you from developing sores, especially in parts of your body that can’t move.
- Model. Different models may have different features that work better for your condition or physical needs.
- Size. Depending on how you will be using your wheelchair, you might need a wheelchair that is under a certain width, or one that weighs a certain amount or less. Your technician can help you go through the options and pick what will work best for you and the spaces you’ll be using.
It's important to note that insurance payors, such as Medicare, have rules that determine what type of wheelchair, including extra features, a patient can obtain. If you’re planning to use insurance to help cover the cost of the equipment, be sure to check that the equipment is covered.