There are two main factors to consider: the user’s abilities and how the wheelchair will be used
Someone who can propel a wheelchair can opt for one which comes with big rear wheels (photo 1). On the other hand, a pushchair or transport wheelchair would be more suitable for someone who cannot propel himself (photo 2). It has smaller rear wheels, making it lighter, less spaceconsuming and easier to load into a vehicle. The pushchair, which may cost between $230 and $780, is usually cheaper than a standard lightweight wheelchair made of aluminium, but usually slightly more expensive than the heavyweight wheelchair made of chrome or stainless steel. A person who cannot tolerate sitting upright for more than 30 minutes at a time may need a recliner wheelchair. Such a wheelchair, which costs more than $500, has a backrest that can be tilted or reclined at an angle (photo 3).
A motorised wheelchair (photo 4) can be considered for someone who needs to get around a lot, for instance, to work or school, and is strong enough to manoeuvre the joystick which controls the motion of the wheelchair (photo 5). This reduces the user’s risk of developing repetitive stress injuries in the shoulders from propelling the wheels. A motorised wheelchair, however, is expensive and can cost more than $2,000. The non-profit Centre for Enabled Living, a one-stop centre for people needing care, offers assistance to people who need such wheelchairs but cannot afford them, through its Assistive Technology Fund. The fund offers a subsidy of up to 90 per cent of the cost of the wheelchair or up to $10,000, whichever is lower. The size of the subsidy will depend on the applicant’s household income. Those who often need to move the wheelchair in and out of a vehicle may want to buy a lighter wheelchair made of aluminium. However, a light wheelchair will not support a heavy-set person. In time, the upholstery may sag and the wheelchair will become uncomfortable.