How to set up a wheelchair

A wheelchair can help improve the movement of people that struggle with mobility. Whether this is a matter of needing additional support to get around and prevent the time spent standing, or if it’s a necessity for people who are disabled and completely unable to walk, a wheelchair is a proven solution that offers reliability and improved mobility to those that need it.

If you’ve recently bought a wheelchair and haven’t used one before, you may need help with setting it up and getting started. Below, we have answered some of the most frequently asked questions about wheelchairs and provide advice on how to assemble it, pump up its tyres, choose a suitable cushion and fold it away.

How to assemble a wheelchair

Once your wheelchair arrives, it’s likely that you’ll need to have it ready straight away for immediate use. Fortunately, wheelchairs are typically pre-assembled, meaning that all you need to do is remove it from its packaging, open it and your wheelchair will be ready to go. 

 An older man setting up his new wheelchair.

How do you open a wheelchair?

After all packaging has been removed, you can open your wheelchair to make it ready for use. To do this, firstly place the wheelchair on a flat surface and stand directly in front of it. Then, firmly hold on to the left and right seat rails and push them down until the wheelchair folds out.

You should then put the brakes on so it won’t move when you begin to lower yourself into the chair. It would also be advisable to make sure that the foot rests are out of the way when you sit down to prevent the likelihood of tripping over or hurting your legs or feet

How to pump up wheelchair tyres

Similar to the tyres used on bicycles, wheelchair tyres are strong and reliable. However, if one of them loses pressure, it can make the wheelchair less safe and potentially put the user in danger.

If the tyres on your wheelchair begin to look flat, you can pump them up using a household hand or foot pump. Simply attach the pump to the inner tube valve of the tyre and use the manufacturer’s recommended reading (usually written on the tyre or the side of the wheelchair) as a guide. When you’re happy, put the cap back on the tyre before the air escapes and use this as an opportunity to check that both tyres are at the correct air pressure.

How to choose a wheelchair cushion

As you may use your wheelchair frequently and therefore spend long periods of time sitting in it, it’s important that it’s suitably comfortable. One of the most effective ways of improving the feel of your wheelchair is by adding a cushion to the seat.

Although you will have many different options, you should base your decision for the cushion on your own needs and preferences. For instance, foam is lightweight and affordable, whereas gel is durable and better at distributing weight and pressure.

Common types of wheelchair cushion include:

- Air

- Foam

- Gel

- Honeycomb

How to collapse a wheelchair

A useful factor in the ownership of a wheelchair is the ability to fold it away as it helps with transportation and storage. You can do this by simply reversing the process of opening it.

Start by applying the brakes to ensure that the wheelchair is stationary. Then, stand in front of the wheelchair, place one hand on the front of the seat and one on the back. You should then slowly lift it up until the wheelchair begins to fold, the wheels move closer together and the gap in between reduces. When the seat is fully raised up, the chair should be completely folded away and ready to be moved around or stored away.

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