How Manual Wheelchairs Work: A Quick Guide

Wheelchairs are movement assistive devices used by people with disabilities. Manual wheelchairs comprise round bars surrounding the wheels and referred to as push-rims, propelled by the user or with handles on the back pushed by an attendant for easy movement. They are lightweight or heavy and easy to maintain.

When purchasing this mobility aid, you may see options that include self-propelled or attendant-propelled. It is essential to choose the best option that addresses your need to ensure easy movement and good support.

Most traditional wheelchairs come with similar designs which includes general components such as smaller front wheels known as castor wheels, rear wheels with attached push-rims, rear-wheel brakes, calf-strap footplate, anti-tip bar, cushion seat frame, armrest, backrest, and push handles.

The castor wheels play an important part in the wheelchair by making it possible for maneuvering. When buying a wheelchair, the user must ensure that it is equipped with an easy to engage or disengage braking system. This is necessary due to the different braking systems available for these assistive devices.

The classic pull-on/push-off mechanism is available for people without weakness in the upper body while the extension levers braking system is for people with upper body weakness and restricted range.

There are categories of rear tires for specific needs, and it is available for indoor and outdoor use. Air-filled pneumatic tires are good for wheelchairs used indoors while puncture-resistant tires are best for outdoor use.

If you need a wheelchair with easy maintenance, choose the model with solid tires.

How to Use a Manual Wheelchairs

It is important to know how to use a manual wheelchairs and observe safety measures to avoid tripping-over, which may cause catastrophes, and you have to be conscious of these tips always.

  • Forward or backward movement– To make a forward movement, reach backwards along the push-rims, grip it, and push or roll the rims forward. To maintain this movement, continue to push or roll the rims forward. For backward propelling, reach forward and grip the push-rims, then pull it backward.
  • Left or right turning – If you are turning to the left or right, use one hand and grip the push-rim of the side you intend to turn, to prevent the wheel of that side from moving, then push the other wheel forward with your second hand. This means that, to turn left, grip or hold the left push-rim in position, then push forward and turn the right wheel. Also, for right turning, grip or hold the right push-rim, then push forward and turn the left wheel. You can also perform on-the-spot spinning if you are in a tight position. This is achieved by pushing one wheel forward and the other wheel backwards at the same time.
  • Stopping – If you want to stop the wheelchair while moving, grip the push-rims to slow the movement with friction, then use your thumb and index finger to pinch it. Have it in mind that you can only do this with a dry wheel, otherwise, pinch the tires instead.

The friction which occurs between your fingers and the rims or tires of the manual wheelchair may cause serious discomfort or burn, although it depends on the firmness of your grip. It is advisable to apply the brakes to maintain a balance of the movement assisting device and prevent it from rolling backwards if you stop and intend to stay on the spot.

For regular users, these are few safety tips when using the wheelchair.

  • Ensure that you position yourself on the chair and your center-of-gravity, in-line with the movement of the device.
  • Always move the wheelchair at a stable speed to avoid accidents caused by a fast-rolling, losing balance, and tripping-over, which is common in wheelchair accidents.
  • Avoid leaning forward or backwards while seated, as this may cause the device to become unsteady due to a change in the center-of-gravity.

If you must stretch your hand to reach an object which may cause you to lean forward or backwards, then use this procedure:

  1. Roll your wheelchair and position it close to the object.
  2. Lock the casters and wheels to avoid any movement.
  3. Then move the casters away from the main wheels to balance the wheelchair.

Functions of a Wheelchair

The functions of a wheelchair cannot be underestimated as it enables people with different disabilities to maintain good health, become mobile, and partake in community activities.

  • This mobility aiding device gives the user the ability to move around and helping them maintain an active lifestyle is of immense benefit to the physical and mental health.
  • It improves the overall health of the user, promotes healing, and reduces the effect of deformities, pressure sores, and advanced conditions brought about by poor postures.
  • With its lightweight, it is maneuvered while providing the user with freedom of movement.
  • It offers the user a comfortable chair for relaxation while carrying out daily activities.

It is important to know the working of manual wheelchairs and follow simple tips when using it. Taking proper care of the equipment to keep it in good condition always, is also necessary by examining the parts that make up the wheelchair.


Helpful Resources:

1. Top 5 Tips for Treating Knee Pain Without Medication

2. What Are The Complications Women Face During Pregnancy?

3. Best Exercises For A Complete Back Workout

4. TMJ Pain


Jamie is a mother to 8 children and an avid cook and works as a senior writer at https://vertexmobility.com.sg. She enjoys theater from both the audience as well as being on stage. She has been writing stories ever since she could put pen to paper and still enjoys doing so today. She loves to write about health, illness, and health care products.

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