Disabilities are not discouragements. More than 25 million Americans have travel-limiting disabilities. They may struggle to walk or maneuver themselves.

But there are tools to help all Americans move. Wheelchairs are affordable and effective tools. Yet you have to consider several factors before buying a wheelchair.

A disabled man is sitting in a wheelchair. He holds his hands on the wheel. Nearby are his colleagues

What kinds of wheelchairs can you buy? How can you promote accessibility inside your house? How can you assess the comfort of a wheelchair?

Answer these questions and you can find a new wheelchair that will help you move for years to come. Here is your quick guide.

Wheelchair Types

You have many wheelchair options. Each has its own strengths and weaknesses, and you should differentiate amongst the different kinds of wheelchairs.

Manual Wheelchairs

Manual wheelchairs are what most people think of when they read about wheelchairs. As their name suggests, they are chairs with large wheels so the person sitting in the chair can push themselves around.

Manual wheelchairs tend to be lightweight so the user does not have to exert themselves. This makes it easier to transport the chair itself. Yet it can limit the durability of the chair, especially if it is made with plastic.

There are a few subtypes of manual wheelchairs. Some have removable desk arms, allowing the user to move up to a table. Others have full arms so the user can rest their arms while they are not turning the wheels.

Leg rests are another important feature of manual wheelchairs. Elevated leg rests pick the feet off the ground while the user is sitting. But a swing-away leg rest slides off to the side of a chair, letting the user get out easily.

Electric Wheelchairs

Electric wheelchairs rely on battery packs in order to operate. A user controls a joystick to go where they want to go. They do not have to turn the wheels or pump brakes with their feet.

Electric wheelchairs can go faster than manual ones. Many people like to use them when they are shopping or traveling from one place to another.

A user may not be able to swap the battery out themselves. They can ask someone else to change the battery or plug the wheelchair into an outlet.

Besides its source of power, electric wheelchairs function almost identically to manual wheelchairs. Yet they are heavier and they can cost more.

Transport Wheelchairs

Transport wheelchairs are lightweight wheelchairs used to get a person from one place to another. They are good to get someone from a car into a building or across a large complex.

Most transport wheelchairs are manual. They may be nearly identical to a normal manual wheelchair.

But their seats tend to be lighter and less supportive of the user’s body. Some people have trouble if they have to sit in a transport chair for a long time.

Some chairs have brakes so the wheels can lock. Nearly all chairs are foldable, allowing you to carry one in the back seat of your car.


A new wheelchair should conform to its user’s house. The user should be able to enter and exit their house without having to adjust the chair or their seat. They should also be able to go to the store or push themselves down the street without issue.

You may need to install ramps or smooth over the concrete outside your house. You should also install a wheelchair lift so you can get to the upper levels of your house.

Another person should be able to push or pull your wheelchair. See how others can hand objects to you and maneuver the chair from behind.


The best wheelchair is one that you will feel comfortable in. The seat should support your lower back and legs. You should be able to lean back and turn around in your seat without the material constricting you.

The wheels and brakes should be accessible to you. You should be able to stop the wheelchair within a couple of seconds.

You can inspect a wheelchair before you buy one. It is essential that you do this for a wheelchair rental, as most rentals have been used previously.

Visit a website like mobilitypluscolorado.com to inspect your options. Then go and visit a store so you can test out different chairs.


Your wheelchair should have a bag or pouch so you can store your belongings. Most bags hang off of one or both arms of the chair. It is okay to buy a chair that has hanging pouches, but make sure they do not interfere with the turning wheels.

You may be able to hang a purse or messenger bag along the back or side of your chair. Check to see that the straps in your bag do not catch in the wheels.

Your chair can also have a pouch on the back. This is good for manual wheelchairs that someone else may be pushing.

Your chair should support the weight of groceries and a laptop computer. Test out how objects of different weights affect your chair.

The Key Factors for Buying a Wheelchair

Buying a wheelchair takes a little work. Manual wheelchairs are lightweight and cheap. But if you need to travel quickly, electric wheelchairs are best.

You may need to make modifications to your house so you can use your chair properly. Test out a few chairs and find the most comfortable one.

Make sure you have pouches or bags to store things in. Someone who is pushing you should be able to put things in the back.

Once you buy a wheelchair, you need to know how to use it. Read guides on wheelchairs by following our coverage.