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Wheelchair Types, Components, and Assistive Technology

The following charts will review types of wheelchairs, the parts of a wheelchair, and various assistive technology items that people who use wheelchairs utilize.

Types of Wheelchairs

Type Description How it is used Who would use it – diagnoses Examples Video Links Photos
Power wheel-chair A wheel-chair that operates electronic-ally using a battery and electric controls The person uses a power control custom-ized to their abilities to maneuver the wheel-chair.

-head switch

Diagnoses that result in the person being too weak to propel a manual chair, yet having enough motor control to operate the power controls

-spinal cord injury, any level
-multiple sclerosis
-amyotro-phic lateral sclerosis (ALS)
-muscular dystrophy
-severe rheumatoid arthritis
-cerebral palsy
-systemic lupus erythema-tosus

A woman with advanced multiple sclerosis uses a power wheelchair with a knob style hand control to maneuver her power wheelchair through a shopping mall. A high school student demonstrates wheelchair etiquette in the hallway using her power wheelchair in an entertaining manner.

Manual wheel-chair A wheel-chair that is pro-pelled without the use of electricity The person pushes the wheel-chair with their hands, feet or both. Another person may also push the wheel-chair as the person rides. Diagnoses where the person has enough upper body strength to push the wheelchair:

-spinal cord injury, mid-thoracic, lumbar, sacral
-multiple sclerosis
-muscular dystrophy
-lower extremity amputa-tions
-other diagnoses affecting lower extremities
Diagnoses where the person is unable to propel any type of wheelchair

-severe quadruple-gic cerebral palsy
-severe brain injury
-multiple congenital conditions
-advanced Alzheimer’s disease

A man with an L1-L2 spinal cord injury uses a manual racing wheelchair to compete in a para-olympic race. A teenage girl with a spinal cord injury propels a manual wheelchair for the first time.

Light-weight wheel-chair A wheel-chair that is made with lighter materials and designed to fold for travel. The person transfers into the mode of transport-tation, then folds the wheel-chair and lifts it into the storage compart-ment or asks someone else to fold and store the wheel-chair. Diagnoses that allow the person to drive and/or travel frequently.

-spinal cord injury
-multiple sclerosis
-cerebral palsy
-muscular dystrophy

A man with a T9-T10 spinal cord injury folds and lifts his lightweight wheelchair into the back seat of his car after transferring to the driver’s seat. A salesman describes the features of a lightweight wheelchair.

Stand-ing wheel-chair A power wheelchair that uses hydraulics to lift the person to a standing position and support the person in standing. The person uses the power controls to change the wheel-chair from sitting to standing position. Diagnoses that prevent the person from standing without total support.

-cerebral palsy
-spinal cord injury
-multiple sclerosis
-amyotro-phic lateral sclerosis
-muscular dystrophy

A woman with muscular dystrophy uses a standing wheelchair to stand and reach her kitchen cupboards so she can put away lightweight dishes. A young man demonstrates how to use a power standing wheelchair.

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