It’s a chair! So… what is a chair? We all have them; we all love them. What happens, though, if we put wheels on it? In Part 1 we talked about the wheels we put on chairs and call them wheelchairs. Wouldn’t it be fun to put wheels on that upholstered chair?!?
Of course we wouldn’t attempt that, but today let’s have some fun and examine the chairs on which we do put wheels and how they are similar to the chairs in our home.
What is under all the soft cushions in the chair at the top? A frame is usually made of metal or wood. The heavier that frame, the harder the chair is to move. The exact same thing applies to wheelchairs. The chair has a frame that is made of aluminum, titanium, or carbon fiber. The lighter the frame, the easier it is to propel or push.
We need to be able to actually sit on our chair, so on go a seat sling on which we put a cushion, and a back. The back is usually nylon but can be custom made for the user. The cushion must support the full weight of the rider and also protect the delicate skin.
I was talking with a lady one day in the parking lot of a grocery. She asked if I minded her watching me put my chair into the car. Intrigued by the process, but especially the cushion, she explained that her husband had recently been sold a wheelchair that had no cushion. He said it hurt. Of course it hurt after sitting in it all day long.
Manual wheelchairs have either a “folding” or “rigid” frame, though actually both fold. The “folding” chair has a cross-brace that can fold the seat similar to a Director’s Chair. The “rigid” frame is essentially a box. Usually the back can be folded down. I once had a chair that could have the seat folded, the back folded down, or both at the same time. It had a lot of moving parts to keep tightened. In general, experienced users tend to prefer the rigid chair for its durability and lighter weight.
That’s it. A frame, a back, and a cushion – almost. Every user has a different need. It might need to be very easy to push or get in and out of the car. Maybe it needs a motor. Want a bike? It’s called a handcycle.
From the chairs in our living rooms, to our dining rooms, to outdoors, to the office, a chair is not just a chair; a wheelchair is not just a wheelchair.
Whilst I have your ear, may I add that people who use wheelchairs are neither confined nor bound. Those terms date from an era long past, when the wheelchair was more of a hospital item. They are degrading and imply inferior ability. The modern wheelchair is a device of independence and liberation. If we shop ’till we drop, I’ll be going when most walkers are ready to go home!
Thank you for following this 2 part tech series. I hope I haven’t bored you. If you have questions, please feel welcome to let me know. Disclaimer, aka the fine print, I am not a seating specialist or physical therapist. Please get proper consultation before ordering or using any type of wheelchair.
This was written as a 2 part series for CAPTIVATING! and is used with permission.
Photos: Top photo is of a large, comfortable, retro-style arm chair with a matching toss pillow and ottoman type foot rest. It is rose color with cream trim and flowers. Second photo, a custom, rigid wheelchair. It has a silver-gray, natural finish titanium frame. The axles and wheel spokes are red. The cushion and back are black. Third photo shows a motorized wheelchair with a thick cushion, padded back, and blue arms. It is controlled with a mouse.