Home Construction An overview of manual wheelchair designs

An overview of manual wheelchair designs


Many types of wheelchairs are available, which vary in the operating method, manual or powered, mechanism of control, and the design, whether it is rigid or foldable. Wheelchair design addresses some specific needs of users for daily use, or it can be for a one-time activity. Every wheelchair addresses the particular needs of users, and it will be wrong to expect it to cover all aspects. This is the reason for designing wheelchairs in different ways to address different needs of users. The most important considerations during wheelchair selection are the user’s physical needs and the manner of use as well as the knowledge about why wheelchair designs are different.

Although wheelchairs are of different designs with varied features, the primary distinction is between rigid frame wheelchairs and portable light folding wheelchair. Let us look at the salient design features of wheelchairs that will help to understand the device better.


The functionality of wheelchairs depends mostly on frame design and material.  Steel frames are cheapest but also the heaviest. Aluminum frames are much lighter and easier to work with but expensive. Although strength and durability are the most critical factors in wheelchair selection, the weight of the equipment is also a consideration, especially for manual wheelchairs that need physical force for operating the equipment.   The strength to weight ratio determines the durability of the material. Titanium is much more durable yet light and lighter than aluminum, corrosion-resistant without the need to apply an additional coating to resists corrosion as required for aluminum. Carbon fiber is a new material now used for manual wheelchairs due to its lightweight and corrosion-resistant property, but it is difficult to give shape.

Types of manual wheelchairs

Manual wheelchairs are either operated by the user or with some assistance from another person. These wheelchairs are of two types – standing manual wheelchairs and heavy-duty manual wheelchair.

Standing manual wheelchair– The wheelchair is adjustable in the sense that the seat can be adjusted between the default seating positions to any standing position with the help of a hydraulic pump. This gives flexibility to the user who can comfortably stand with its support if needed.

Heavy-duty manual wheelchair – Heavy-duty wheelchairs have a robust construction with massive tubing, rugged axles, double-cross brace, and reinforced upholstery to accommodate people with heavy built weighing more than 350 lbs. Its other name is a bariatric wheelchair.

Folding wheelchair–These wheelchairs have folding frames that can quickly fold into a smaller size to suit the traveling needs of users who can put it inside the car comfortably. The wheelchairs are ultra-lightweight with high adjustability, and the folding feature allows for easy storage of the device at home when not in use.  The ease of carrying the wheelchair anywhere is the reason for its popularity. Aluminum and titanium are the most preferred materials for the folding frames.

Wheelchairs are highly customizable, and there are many other types of wheelchairs, like sports wheelchairs, which are useful for various sports like archery, rugby, basketball, and tennis.


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