The Manual Wheelchair Training Guide
by Axelson P, Chesney D, Minkel J & Perr A
The availability of accessories for wheelchair riders has expanded tremendously over the past few years. You could never need or use all the accessories available on the market, if you did, your chair would be bristling with enough gadgets and gizmos to rival a one-man novelty band. The accessories you choose will reflect your personal abilities, activities, skill level, and plain old personal preference. An accessory you use all the time might be merely a hindrance to another. You will grow out of some accessories you found indispensable when you first started using a wheelchair. You may grow into other accessories as you gain experience with your chair. Below is a list of different accessories, including a description, other common terms for the accessory, and the positives and negatives of using it.
active rehab wheelchair - Wheelchair model that can be adjusted in many directions and used in some sports. Usually made of aluminum and lighter in weight than other wheelchairs.
active rehab wheelchair
add-on power system - Designed to convert a manual wheelchair into a powered one.
airless tire inserts: flat-free inserts - Designed to fit inside the tire to eliminate the need for air-filled tubes; usually made of foam.
anti-tippers - Small wheels attached to the back of your wheelchair and designed to prevent you from tipping over backward. Anti-tippers are often included with your wheelchair equipment. They should be requested in all cases because situations may arise where even very experienced users may wish to use them.
airplane wheels - When quick release rear tires are removed, the wheelchair can roll on these wheels down an airplane aisle.
armrest panels - These plastic or metal guards attach to the armrests, between the wheel and the rider.
backpack - Bag designed to be worn on the back, it can also be attached to the back of a wheelchair by hooking the straps over the push handles or frame. Backpacks specifically designed for wheelchairs are also available.
beach wheelchair - Wheelchair designed to negotiate sand and soft surfaces. Has wide balloon tires with large treads and a longer wheelbase to provide added stability.
bicycle lights - Lights designed to clip onto bicycles can increase your visibility to motorists. A white halogen lamp can act as a headlight. Blinking red lights can be clipped to the rear of your wheelchair to improve your visibility.
bike trailer - A wheeled cart that can be attached to the back of the wheelchair for added storage.
caster pins: caster locks - These pins lock the caster in the forward or rearward trailing position.
cellular phone - Portable, wireless telephones.
chair guards: frame guards - Chair guards are plastic or leather covers that fit over your wheelchair.
chest strap - A strap attached to the back of the wheelchair that crosses under your arms and over your chest. It can help prevent you from falling forward. Always use a lap belt if you are using a chest belt.
clothing guards: mud guards - Plastic or nylon guards that stay between your wheels and clothes to keep you clean.
daily rehab wheelchair - Designed to be used regularly on a long-term basis for everyday tasks. Provides many adjustable features to maximize comfort and maneuverability.
daily rehab wheelchair
depot style wheelchair - Basic wheelchair model typically used in hospitals. Provides very few adjustable features and is not designed for daily long-term use
duct tape - Wide plastic tape embedded with fiber webbing for strength
dynamic brakes - Used to slow a moving wheelchair. Rare, but available on some European-made wheelchairs.
electrical tape - Thin, stretchy plastic tape that is used to bind electrical wires. Comes in many colors.
flags - A tall, flexible rod with a triangular flag (usually vinyl or plastic); usually comes in a fluorescent color. Mounts to the back of your wheelchair to improve your visibility.
flashlight - Useful when traveling along dark streets and to improve your visibility to others. For easy access, use a Velcrotm strap to attach it to the frame of your wheelchair.
fold-down briefcase rest - Ledge that attaches to the footrest side rails. When raised, can hold a briefcase or travel bag at your feet, where you can access it easily. Folds down and out of the way when not in use.
fold-down briefcase rest
foot straps - Straps that attach to the footrests and loop over the top of each foot to keep them from sliding forward off the footrests.
gloves - Gloves with grips such as plastic strips or dots on the palms.
handbike - bicycle that can be pedaled with the hands and arms.
handi-wipes, wet nap: baby-wipes - Wet cloths used for cleaning hands and face. Available in plastic dispensers or in individual packets.
head rests - Mounts to the back of the wheelchair and used to support the head, as in car seats.
hill climbers: grade aids - Hill climbers attached to the wheelchair on or near the wheel lock. When engaged, they allow the wheelchair to roll forward, but prevent it from rolling backward.
key clasps - Small clasps with key rings attached that can hook keys to the frame of your wheelchair.
lap belt - A belt worn across the lap to prevent forward falls out of the wheelchair. A lap belt should always be used with a chest support. Belt clasps come in many different styles.
leg straps - Straps that hold the legs to the wheelchair frame just above the footrests.
mirrors - Mirrors mounted onto the frame of your wheelchair can be used similarly to mirrors on a car.
noisemaker - A horn or bell attached to your wheelchair can be used to signal motorists, pedestrians, and bicyclists. Can be purchased at bicycle shops.
off-road wheelchair - Wheelchair with large knobbed tires similar to those found on mountain bikes, and featuring a longer wheelbase for improved stability. Many have hand-operated bicycle brakes. Off-road wheelchairs are designed to negotiate rough, unpaved surfaces.
patch kit - A patch kit will help fix flat tires. You will still need a pump to fill the patched tire with air.
pump - Can be used to inflate tires that need air.
push handles - Handles attached to the top of the seat back that enable an assistant to push or tilt the wheelchair.
racing wheelchair - Lightweight, three-wheeled wheelchair designed in an aerodynamic shape to maximize traveling speeds. Used in racing events.
recliner: reclining backrest - Allows the seat-to-back angle to be increased by permitting the backrest to move backward.
reflective tape - Brightly colored plastic or vinyl tape that reflects light aimed at it; can be attached to your wheelchair and/or clothing.
reflectors - Plastic disks or rectangles that reflect light aimed at them; can be attached to the spokes, frame, or back of a wheelchair to improve your visibility to motorists. Recommended if wheeling along streets in traffic is anticipated.
seat cushions - Seat cushions come in a variety of styles and materials, including plastic, foam, gels, air, or water. You can buy custom cushions made to fit your body or cheaper, mass-produced cushions. Select the proper type after consulting with a rehabilitation or seating therapist.
seat pouch - Cloth pouches specifically designed to be attached under wheelchair seats. A fanny pack (nylon or cloth pouches worn around the waist) can be modified to serve as a seat pouch.
shoulder harness - Strap that fits over your shoulders and hooks around the back of a wheelchair to help keep you upright and bolster your forward stability.
spoke guards - Plastic disk that fits over your outer spokes; functions as a hubcap for the rear wheels.
standing wheelchair - Helps wheelchair users regain the feeling of standing to perform tasks.
supports: postural supports: trunk supports - Padding that can be added to a wheelchair seat and/or back to improve the seating position of the rider. May include chest straps, lap belts, side-to-side supports, and hip guides.
Minus: may restrict mobility of trunk and/or buttocks; may interfere with transfers
Swiss Army Knife or other multi-purpose tool - Can function as an all-in-one tool kit; depending on the model, it can include screwdrivers, scissors, knife blades, files, pliers, and tweezers.
tennis chair - Wheelchair featuring a short wheelbase and one small caster instead of two front ones for enhanced maneuverability. Designed for playing tennis and other racquet sports.
tilt-in-space - Allows you to change the orientation of the seat on the frame by moving the backrest backward and forward while simultaneously raising or lowering the angle of the seat.
tray: lap tray - A flat removable surface (usually plastic) that mounts to the frame and extends over your lap. It can be used as a surface for eating, playing games, reading, writing, etc.
web cradle - A square piece of mesh that attaches below the seat and is used for storage.
wheel locks - Designed to prevent a stationary wheelchair from rolling but can be used to slow a moving wheelchair.
Last Updated: February 5, 2001
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© Copyright 2006 University of Pittsburgh. All rights reserved.
Please note: This information is provided a archival information from the Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center on Wheeled Mobility from 1993 to 2002.