For people with limited mobility, technology is constantly evolving, making it easier than ever to accomplish daily tasks and live independently.
Lightweight wheelchairs are one of the devices that are doing just that, giving people the ability to travel with enhanced comfort and more transit options.
In this article, we take a look at the 8 benefits of lightweight wheelchairs so you can determine if this is the best model to help you enjoy a more fulfilling life.
A Brief History of the Lightweight Wheelchair
The innovative lightweight folding wheelchair is a mobility device changing the way people move. Several different types come with a varied selection of features to satisfy any lifestyle.
Users also have the option to customize accessories for the added comfort they desire.
The first lightweight easy to push wheelchair was invented by Herbert Everest in 1933. Everest was a paraplegic himself, who wanted to design a compact mobility device that would fit in an automobile.
The final result was produced with the help of his engineer companion Harry Jennings, and from there the Everest & Jennings wheelchair brand was born.
The company proceeded to lead the market in wheelchair innovation, and through the years the ultralight wheelchair underwent numerous transformations to become what it is today.
The manual lightweight chair weighs between 25 and 40 lbs, with a super lightweight wheelchair that weighs an impressive 15 to 18 lbs.
This is due to the use of aluminum materials rather than traditional steel for construction.
However, although lighter, aluminum can’t hold as much weight as durable steel, making the lightweight chair unsuitable for anyone weighing over 250 lbs.
Furthermore, aluminum is expensive. The cost of lightweight wheelchairs ranges between $150 and $3500.
Who Should Use a Lightweight Wheelchair?
Unfortunately, lightweight wheelchairs are not created for everyday use in place of a conventional manual or powerchair.
Due to its minimalist, portable design, it’s more suited for people who have some use of their limbs or for elderly individuals who tire easily and need extra support to travel longer distances than they’re used to.
Now, you might be thinking this sounds a lot like a lightweight transport wheelchair, but the big difference is that transport chairs feature smaller wheels that cannot be self-propelled.
Lightweight chairs, on the other hand, are equipped with traditional drive wheels that users can propel and maneuver themselves.
Now that you have a clear picture of what the lightweight wheelchair is and who it serves, let’s jump into the benefits of lightweight wheelchairs and what they can offer.
8 Benefits of the Lightweight Manual Wheelchair
Lightweight wheelchairs come in different designs, with each offering its own unique set of benefits depending on the user’s needs.
1. Lightweight Travel Wheelchairs Foster Independence
If you’ve ever dreamed of traveling the world on your terms, but a bulky manual wheelchair or powerchair is too difficult to deal with, that’s where the lightweight wheelchair can turn those dreams into reality.
Apart from its featherlight aluminum frame, most models fold up and slide seamlessly into a protective carrying case for travel purposes.
Whether you’re taking a road trip or taking off in an airplane, the lightweight chair can be stored in a car trunk or an airplane cabin with ease.
It’s also compact enough to maneuver around crowded airports or down tight plane aisles.
Add whatever accessories you need for comfort such as cup holders, a small bag, or a lap tray.
Narrow models even allow the user to easily maneuver around hotel rooms and public bathrooms, reducing hassle.
The lightweight wheelchair was invented to give the user more freedom, letting you take control of your independence and further enjoy everyday activities that you might not be able to do with a traditional chair.
2. Lightweight Foldable Wheelchairs Are Convenient to Store
As we mentioned above, if you plan on traveling frequently, most lightweight wheelchair models fold into a slim, compact size that can fit inside the trunk of a car, a carrying case, or on an airplane.
It’s also helpful if you live in a small house or apartment where storage is limited. You can fold your chair and stash it in a closet when not in use.
3. The Lightweight Portable Wheelchair Makes Transportation a Breeze
Since lightweight chairs are made of aluminum, they’re light enough to lift and carry without much effort.
The folding capability is a huge plus, too. This is a highly versatile wheelchair that is ideal for any type of transportation.
Typically, a traditional wheelchair is transferred onto a customized accessibility van, with special restraints and a ramp to make a smooth transfer from the ground to the van.
With a lightweight wheelchair, transfers are much faster and efficient. Granted, this type of wheelchair is utilized by people who still have some mobility in their limbs, so light assistance or no assistance is needed to move from the chair to the vehicle.
However, the perk here is that lightweight wheelchairs make it possible to climb stairs or quickly jump on a plane, bus, train, or into a car.
This gives the user more transportation options and of course, enhanced independence.
4. The Small Lightweight Wheelchair Can be Self-Propelled for Better Maneuverability
As mentioned, aluminum is much lighter than steel, therefore it’s easier for the user to maneuver a lightweight wheelchair.
If you tire easily or your arm/hand muscles are weaker, you won’t have to put much effort into propelling a lightweight chair.
A slight push on the drive wheels sends you forward, and less weight to push means you can turn on a dime, giving you full control to maneuver like a champ in tight hallways or doorways with sharp turns.
5. Made of High Quality, Long Lasting Materials
You might be thinking if this wheelchair is so lightweight, it probably won’t last long.
Thankfully, this is a common misconception. Lightweight wheelchairs made of aluminum are incredibly strong; it’s just as strong as other industrial-grade materials.
One of the most popular types of wheelchairs is a lightweight rigid wheelchair made of titanium. This type of material is even lighter than aluminum while retaining its durability. It also boasts shock-absorbing qualities for a smoother ride on rough terrain.
What makes it different is that the middle section of the chair doesn’t fold. It lacks the mechanical components to do so, which also attributes to its extra light frame.
However, the backrest does fold, so you can still transport it without issue.
So don’t be afraid to invest in a lightweight chair if the features align with your lifestyle. It can withstand everyday wear and tear just like a traditional steel wheelchair, lasting for years.
Bear in mind that titanium folding or rigid chairs tend to be more expensive than aluminum, but the top-quality benefits certainly make it worth it.
6. Some Lightweight Reclining Wheelchairs Have Adjustable Frames & Features
Another neat feature available on some lightweight wheelchair models is an adjustable frame for added comfort. This means that the user can change the angle of the backrest, giving them more seating flexibility.
And that’s not all you can adjust. If you work at a desk, there are specialized desk-length armrests that allow you to scoot closer to a table. When you want to relax, switch to full-length armrests for maximum arm support.
Leg comfort isn’t left out, either. Most chairs are equipped with swing-away footrests that slide open to the sides to allow for easy entry and exit.
The only drawback of the swing-away variety is that it can’t be raised or lowered.
Fortunately, users can choose to have elevating leg rests that do just that, giving those with sore legs or circulation problems the ability to straighten and lift their legs, releasing pressure.
7. The Lightweight Electric Wheelchair is Available for Those with Limited Arm Mobility
The art of mobile device versatility continues with the lightweight power wheelchair. This battery-powered model extends the possibilities of travel to people with limited use of their arms, who might not be able to propel manual drive wheels.
Lightweight foldable electric wheelchairs enable users to enjoy the same transport and storage benefits as the manual models, fitting easily into the trunk of a car without the electrical components getting in the way.
The only slight drawback is that the lightweight folding power wheelchair weighs more than the manual at around 40 lbs.
Still, this is a huge improvement over a standard electric wheelchair, which weighs between 150 to 200 lbs.
8. Wheelchair Users Can Still Enjoy Sports with a Lightweight Active Wheelchair
We can’t leave out the sports lovers in this article! Behold, you can still enjoy the vigorous exercise you desire while reaping the benefits of easy transport, storage, and maneuverability.
The lightweight sports wheelchair is designed for athletes, with light materials and high-performance features that can take on wear and tear.
There are a few different designs adapted to the specific sport, including basketball, tennis, and racing.
Final Thoughts on Benefits of Lightweight Wheelchairs
It’s no wonder why lightweight chairs are gaining traction with wheelchair users. The strong aluminum or titanium frames and foldable qualities make these compact devices easy to transport and store.
A lighter device also enhances propulsion and maneuverability, which is a relief for turning in tight spaces inside a building or playing sports.
Undoubtedly one of the biggest benefits of lightweight wheelchairs is that it opens doors to independence for people with limited mobility. With faster, efficient handling, users can travel in cars, airplanes, trains, and buses with ease, and also transit over long distances comfortably.
Resources & References:
- An Exploratory Study of the Experiences of Wheelchair Users as Aircraft Passengers – Implications for Policy and Practice, ScienceDirect.
- Airline Travel Tips for People Using a Wheelchair, University of Washington.