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Wheelchairs 101

Assess Your Needs

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Before thinking about a specific chair (see below), give some thought to your specific needs in a chair.


Consider the following subjects in your home, your workplace, homes of friends or relatives and other places in which you spend a lot of time.

  • How wide are the doors and halls?
  • Are there narrow sharp turns that may make it difficult to get around?
  • The bathrooms:
    • How large is the largest one that will be accessible to you?
    • Is there space to turn around?
    • How easy is it to reach the toilet? The tub?
    • How high is the sink?
    • Will the door close with you and the chair in it?
  • How high is the underside of each table you use? Each desk you use?
  • How high are shelves and cabinets that you want to access?
  • What surfaces will you move over? Are they all wood? Some carpet? Any deep shag?
  • Is the outside terrain paved? Grass? Are there gravel paths?


  • If you drive:
    • Is the vehicle a car? Van? Two-door? Four-door?
    • How large and convenient to use is the trunk or other storage area?
  • Do you use public transportation?
    • If so, what type?
    • How accessible is vehicle to a person in a wheelchair?

Other factors to consider

  • What hobbies, type of work, exercise or other activities should be considered when choosing a chair?
  • What is your level of physical activity? How does that impact the kind of chair you should consider?
  • What is the importance of appearance of your chair?
  • What particular features do you need (see below) or what accessories are important to you?

What will your insurance pay for?

  • If you have Medicare or private health insurance, a prescription from a physician will be required before there will be coverage. To get payment for a chair that is more than a standard chair with standard features, your medical team will have to show the "medical necessity" of the more costly items.
  • If your insurance won't pay for what you need, can you qualify for other health coverage?

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