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Do you have a mobility impairment for which you have to use a wheelchair? I use a wheelchair and would like to share my experiences and basic helpful hints, so that you will be better prepared when choosing and or using one. The decision to purchase a new chair should be reached after with your doctor, a physical or occupational therapist, a family member or close friend, and the wheelchair vendor, because everyone’s needs and wants are different. One type of wheelchair is a manual wheelchair, which means that the person in the wheelchair can push him/herself by putting their hands on the wheels and pushing, pulling, or turning them. This type of wheelchair will probably tire your hands and arms out, but it will make them stronger, too. It is great exercise! This type of wheelchair can also be pushed by an able-bodied person who walks behind the chair with their hands on the grip bars on the back of the chair. Most of these types of wheelchairs can easily be transported in a vehicle or airplane. Some manual chairs are heavier than others, and more difficult to collapse in a folded position. The sportier looking ones are lightweight. Another type of wheelchair is an electric or motorized one. This kind of chair is ran by batteries, and all a person has to do is move a joystick. These chairs can also be pushed by an able-bodied person by disengaging the transmission. This type of chair can usually be transported in a vehicle or airplane by removing the battery. Electric chairs are typically used by people with limited strength in their hands and arms. In order for the manual and electric wheelchairs to move and work properly and be comfortable, there are a few attachments/accessories that go with them, such as wheels, tires, brakes, backrests, footrests, cushions, armrests, and a seat belt. The brakes are used for the same purpose as on a car, to help slow down, especially down a steep hill. Backrests are helpful to support your back comfortably and so you do not feel as if you are falling backwards. Footrests are used to give your feet something to lean on so they are not dangling from the chair. Footrests are especially useful for someone with poor circulation in the lower extremities. Some footrests can be elevated to help with chronic edema. Cushions are good to use if you will be spending an extended period of time in a wheelchair, since this will help prevent pressure sores and will make you more comfortable while sitting. Armrests help to prevent you from leaning too far to one side and falling sideways out of the chair. Seat belts also help to prevent you from falling out of the chair if you happen to lean too far forward, or if the chair tips sideways or backwards. Just like a car, a wheelchair needs regular maintenance tune ups, to make sure everything is working properly, and to prevent any problems. A wheelchair also needs a regular cleaning to prevent problems. If you feel that there is a problem with how your wheelchair is working, call your vendor right away and describe the problem(s) if you can, and ask if you can make an appointment for the vendor to look at the chair. Sometimes the vendor will ask you to bring the chair into the shop, but other vendors will come right to your home. Wheelchairs come in several different colors and are made to suit your particular needs. Cushions are also manufactured to suit your particular needs. It seems almost as if new and different models of manual and electric wheelchairs are being designed every day! Recently, I had to stop using my manual wheelchair, and start using an electric one for health reasons. For me, it has been and continues to be a real anxiety provoking learning period. With the help of a few friends, my level of anxiety has decreased because they have helped me learn how to maneuver the joystick and other controls on my chair. They have also given me the courage to keep trying to learn how to better use this wheelchair, and not give up. While using this wheelchair has made some things easier for me to do, like getting in and out of bed, it has also made some things more difficult, like getting on and off the toilet. I also had to learn different transferring techniques which caused sores on the back of my lower legs near my ankles which are finally almost healed due to the vendor putting extra padding on the leg rests to prevent added pressure. When I have ordered my last three or four wheelchairs, I have requested a certain color, and a seat belt for safety purposes. One nice thing about my electric chair is that it has a tilt and recline feature on it. So if I don’t feel good, I can sleep right in the chair! Furthermore, it tells me how many miles I have traveled each day, and it gives me a combined total with past days, just like a car. It even has a horn, and a joystick on the top of the chair back,so an able-bodied person can control it.

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