Many people take the ability to walk for granted. However, for some, walking is either extremely difficult or impossible. The inability to walk does not, though, equate to a complete lack of mobility. There are numerous examples throughout history of wheeled devices being used to transport otherwise immobile people. The most recent incarnation of this is the wheelchair, a device of great practicality, and a revolution in mobility for those less able to walk.
Knowing which kind of wheelchair to choose can be a very difficult process. It is the intention of this guide to inform the reader about the types and features of wheelchairs, so that they may have sufficient knowledge to be able to choose the right one for them. In addition, this guide will look closely at eBay, the renowned auctioning website, and explain why it is the ideal means of shopping for a wheelchair.
There are numerous examples throughout ancient history of wheeled devices being used to carry human beings, dating as far back as ancient Greece and China. However, the wheelchair as we know it today was not invented until 1933, when Harry Jennings and Herbert Everest invented it to allow Everest mobility, which he had lost in a mining accident.
The wheelchair consists of the following basic components:
- Seat – the seat is the main body of the wheelchair, and is the area in which the wheelchair user sits. Some seats are comprised of little more than pieces of material slung across the frame, whilst others are heavily cushioned and padded
- Footrest – a place for the wheelchair user to rest their feet, preventing them from becoming obstacles to mobility.
- Wheels – attached to the frame, most wheelchairs consist of four wheels, which allow them to move around: two smaller ‘caster wheels’ at the front for stability, and two larger wheels at the back, which feature plastic ‘hand rims’, allowing them to be propelled by the hands. There are, however, many variations on the basic layout of the wheels, designed for different specific purposes, which will be examined below.
- Handles – many manual wheelchairs will feature handles on the back, allowing them to be pushed by a helper.
Wheelchairs can be made of many different materials, from wood to steel. Most materials are sturdy enough for the chair’s purpose, however some materials are known to be of slightly higher practical value, due to their combination of low weight and strength. Aluminium and titanium are both examples of these.
Types of Wheelchair
There are many different kinds of wheelchairs, each created for a different specific function. What follows is a list of the basic types, accompanied by detailed information about their designs and functions.
A manual wheelchair is defined as any wheelchair that requires the input of human exertion to create motion. These are the most common kinds of wheelchair. Rigid manual wheelchairs are ones with fixed frames, meaning they cannot be folded away. Rigid chairs have the advantage of more stability than a folding one, though cannot be packed away as easily for transportation.
Usually, when using a manual wheelchair, the wheelchair user themselves will provide the power source of the movement, using their arms. The hand rims (mentioned above) are plastic attachments, which allow the wheels to be rolled using the hands.
Some users attain great skill at the use of the wheels, allowing them very accurate control over speed and direction, and even occasionally allowing for tricks to be performed, or curbs to be mounted. Many manual wheelchairs will feature handles, allowing them to be pushed by another person. These are useful if the wheelchair user becomes fatigued by operating the wheels.
Cheaper models will be heavier, making movement a little more difficult, whereas the more up-market choices will be made of lighter materials such as aluminium, and will often come with a range of customisable features, allowing the user more comfort.
The folding manual wheelchair is much the same as the rigid version in many respects. However, they have the added advantage of being able to be dismantled and folded away with ease. This makes long journeys in other forms of transportation a great deal simpler, as well as taking up less space when not being used.
The electric wheelchair is a more recent invention than the manual powered version. Whereas the manual wheelchair relies on human power for movement, the electric wheelchair is powered by an electric motor. This has numerous advantages, along with several disadvantages. The following list details both.
- Less physically demanding – for many wheelchair users, the level of physical exertion required to operate a manual wheelchair is simply too high. These users will be unable to operate the manual chair properly. The electric wheelchair does not require physical exertion, and is thus an excellent choice for those less able to exert energy.
- Independence – for wheelchair users who would otherwise require another person to push them, the electric wheelchair offers a measure of independence, which would be otherwise difficult to attain.
- Speed – motorised wheelchairs are capable of going faster than (most) manual wheelchair users can propel themselves, which makes them a slightly more practical option in this regard.
- Comfort – due to their bulkier nature, electric wheelchairs are often equipped with more comfortable seating than their manual counterparts.
- Expense – due to the increased complexity of the electric wheelchair, its initial cost will be higher than that of a manual wheelchair.
- Power consumption – the electric wheelchair must be powered, which not only has negative environmental implications, but also requires the user to use a little more of their valuable electricity, pushing the total cost up even further.
- Exercise – pushing a manual wheelchair is a great way for a wheelchair user to stay in shape; and advantage lost to electric wheelchair users.
- Charging – electric wheelchairs can run out of power, meaning that difficulties can arise if they are not kept charged.
Some wheelchairs are designed specifically for use in sporting activities. These are normally not the user’s primary chair, as they have several features that suit physical activity, but hinder day-to-day business. These include:
- Strong, large, lightweight frame – allows greater control and efficiency in sports, but hinders home manoeuvrability and practicality.
- Rigid (non-folding) – again, allows for a more effective sporting chair, but has practical downsides.
- Negative camber – the wheels will feature a negative camber, making them more stable in sharp turns, but occupying more space.
All-terrain wheelchairs are designed for use on surfaces that might otherwise be inaccessible to wheelchair users, such as sand, snow or even water. They will feature extremely wide tyres, allowing the weight of the chair to be distributed more evenly over the surface, preventing it from sinking in. These chairs are commonly found on beaches, with many places offering them as a rental-free service. They are usually electric, though manual models also exist.
The following is a list of other types of wheelchairs, with a brief description of their features and uses.
- Power assisted – this chair is the size and shape of a regular manual wheelchair, but features a small, sensitive motor that reacts to the user’s push on the wheels, and provides an appropriate power boost to the wheel. This sophisticated technology allows for an excellent balance between manual and electric wheelchairs. It is usually relatively expensive.
- Pediatric – the low seat of this type of chair allows it to be used by children, shorter individuals, and those who wish to use their feet to move their wheelchair.
- Bariatric – designed to support larger weights than most wheelchairs.
- Standing – standing wheelchairs often can shift between seated and standing positions, allowing the user to either sit or stand as they see fit.
- Transfer – transfer wheelchairs are complex and expensive. They can transform from a wheelchair into a stretcher, allowing easy relocation for the wheelchair user. These are usually only required in particularly sever cases.
How to Buy a Wheelchair on eBay
Buying a wheelchair on eBay could not be easier. There is a fantastic range to choose from, and the website itself is both extremely versatile in how it can help, and simple to use.
In order to navigate to the wheelchair section, begin on the eBay homepage. Follow the link to the Jewellery & Beauty category, and then to the Health & Beauty subcategory. On this page, a huge variety of sub-headings should be displayed. Select Mobility, Disability & Medical, and then Mobility Equipment. Finally, select the Wheelchairs option. This will take the user to the item listings. Alternatively, typing ‘wheelchair’ into the search bar. Located near the top of the page, will yield the same result.
Once the item listings have been arrived at, there are numerous filtering options with which to refine a search. The listings can be organised by condition, price and item location. Further, the ‘auction’ option allows the user to bid on wheelchairs, whilst the ‘buy it now’ option allows them to purchase one for a fixed price.
Clicking on an item’s entry in the listings will relocate the user to that item’s individual page. From here, the user can read more detailed information about the wheelchair to ensure that it meets all of their needs. In addition, information about the seller can be surveyed, including their ratings and feedback from previous buyers. The option to contact the seller directly also exists, found near the bottom of the page, enabling the user to pose any additional questions they might have.
The wheelchair is a device that has revolutionised the quality of life for many less able individuals. It was the intention of this guide to assist anyone looking to buy a wheelchair by providing them with the relevant information, and to detail why eBay makes such a helpful platform from which to shop for one. The kind of wheelchair needed will vary wildly depending on the user and the intended purpose.
It is sensible to think about all the needs one might have for a wheelchair, before consulting the above guide to see which kind of wheelchair suits one’s needs most. When a decision has been made, using eBay is the perfect way to secure the purchase.