Anatomy of a Manual Wheelchair

D. Michael McKeough, PT, EdD
Associate Professor
Division of Physical Therapy

Slide 1
Anatomy of a Manual Wheelchair

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by D. Michael McKeough, PT, EdD
Associate Professor
Division of Physical Therapy
2001

Graphic description: a black and white line drawing of a manual wheelchair.

Slide 2
Abstract

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This presentation illustrates the components of a manual wheelchair.

Note pages contain a brief description of the function of each component.

Slide 3
Presenter's Bio-sketch

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Dr. McKeough is an Associate Professor of Physical Therapy at Shenandoah University in Virginia.

He received his doctorate in the control of human movement from Columbia University and teaches physical therapy intervention with individuals who have suffered spinal cord injury.

Slide 4
Learning Objective

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To be able to identify the primary components of a manual wheelchair and describe their function.

Slide 5
Performance Objectives

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Given an appropriate wheelchair or illustration:
be able to identify the primary components of a manual wheelchair and describe the functions of each.

Slide 6
Manual Wheelchair Components Labeled

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Graphic description: a black and white drawing of a wheelchair with 26 parts labeled. These 26 parts will be described one by one in the following slides.

Slide 7
Push handle bracket tubes

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Push handles are extensions to the top of the backrest frame that project backwards from the wheelchair and permit an aid to help propel the chair from behind.

Graphic descriptiom: a black and white drawing of a wheelchair with push handle bracket tubes highlighted.

Slide 8
Back rest

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The back rest is the suspension between the upright components of the seat frame against which the operator rests his/her back.

Graphic description: a black and white drawing of a wheelchair with the backrest highlighted.

Slide 9
Swing-away arm rests

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Swing-away arm rests are the frame components on which the operator rests his/her arms. Swing-away arm rests may be rotated out of the way during transfers without having to remove them from the chair.

Graphic Description: a drawing of a wheelchair with the swingaway padded arm rests highlighted.

Slide10
Pneumatic tires

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Wheelchair tires provide the contact between the wheelchair and the ground. They can be grouped into 3 general classes: pneumatic, semi-pneumatic, and solid rubber. Pneumatic are filled with air and provide a cushioned ride but are susceptible to flats. Semi-pneumatic are filled with gel instead of air to maintain cushioning but eliminate the possibility of flats. Solid rubber are the most durable and maintenance free but provide the roughest ride.

Graphic Description: a drawing of a wheelchair with the pneumatic tires highlighted.

Slide11
Push rim

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The hand or push rim is attached to the outside of the wheel and provides the surface against which the operator pushes with his/her hand to propel the chair. The hand rim is made of strong, light-weight material like aluminum.

Graphic Description: a drawing of a wheelchair with the aluminum push rims highlighted.

Slide12
Wheel rim

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The wheel rim is the surface on which the tire is mounted. It is made of strong, light-weight material like aluminum. The wheel rim is connected to the axel by the spokes.

Graphic Description: a drawing of a wheelchair with the aluminum wheel rims highlighted.

Slide 13
Spokes

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The spokes are the suspension system by which the tire and rim are connected to the axel. Spokes are made of strong, light-weight material, either wire of plastic. Spokes are also responsible for keeping the wheel in round.

Graphic Description: a drawing of a wheelchair with the spokes highlighted.

Slide14
Rear wheel hub

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The hub is the center component of the wheel to which the spokes connect. The hub also houses the axel.

Graphic Description: a drawing of a wheelchair with the rear wheel hub highlighted.

Slide15
Quick release axel

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The quick release axel permits the wheel to quickly and easily disconnected from the frame.

Graphic Description: a drawing of a wheelchair with the quick release axel highlighted.

Slide16
Axel plate

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The axel plate connects the wheel to the frame via the axel. Because the axel plate is adjustable it permits the wheel base to be lengthened to increase wheelchair stability or shortened to increase mobility.

Graphic Description: a drawing of a wheelchair with the axel plate highlighted.

Slide17
Frame

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The wheelchair frame is the rigid, tubular structure that supports the seat and the wheels.

Graphic Description: a drawing of a wheelchair with the frame highlighted.

Slide18
Locks

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The brakes are the components that permit the wheels to be locked in place preventing unwanted motion. There are many types of brakes and they can be positioned in many locations on the wheelchair. All brakes extend from the frame to the wheels and use some form of mechanical locking (lever) system.

Graphic Description: a drawing of a wheelchair with the brakes highlighted.

Slide19
Swing away release lever

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The swing-away release lever permits the foot rests to be rotated out of the way during transfers without having to remove them from the chair. The release level is always located within easy hand access of the seat.

Graphic Description: a drawing of a wheelchair with the swing away release lever highlighted.

Slide 20
Caster housing cover

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The caster housing cover is a removable cap that permits the ball bearings inside the caster housing to be lubricated.

Graphic Description: a drawing of a wheelchair with the caster housing cover highlighted.

Slide 21
Caster plate

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The caster plate is a rigid surface by which the tubular caster housing is connected to the tubular frame.

Graphic Description: a drawing of a wheelchair with the caster plate highlighted.

Slide 22
Caster housing

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The caster housing is a tubular extension of the wheelchair frame. It is filled with ball bearings and receives the caster fork projection. Together they form a pivot joint about which the caster can rotate 360 degrees. This arrangement increases the maneuverability of the chair.

Graphic Description: a drawing of a wheelchair with the caster housing highlighted.

Slide 23
Seat cushion

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The seat cushion is made of compliant material that permits the dispersion and absorption of force (pressure) between the operator’s body and the sitting surface. Seat cushions come in many varieties across a wide range of prices.

Graphic Description: a drawing of a wheelchair with the seat cushion highlighted.

Slide 24
Seat sling

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The seat sling is the suspension between the frame components on which the seat cushion rests. In folding frames the seat sling is flexible permitting the frame to fold. In rigid frames the seat sling is rigid providing a more stabile base of support.

Graphic Description: a drawing of a wheelchair with the seat sling highlighted.

Slide 25
X hinge

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The X-hinge extends from the frame to the cross supports (X-member) of a folding frame and permits the wheelchair to be folded into a more compact size.

Graphic Description: a drawing of a wheelchair with the X-hinge highlighted.

Slide 26
Swing away foot rest

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Swing-away foot rests provide a platform on which the foot may be supported. The hinged connection with the frame allows the foot rest to be rotated out of the way (swung-away) for transfers.

Graphic Description: a drawing of a wheelchair with the swing away foot rests highlighted.

Slide 27
Cross braces

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Cross braces (X-members) provide strut support between the two side frames. Because the cross braces connect to the frame by hinges, the chair may be fold and become more compact.

Graphic Description: a drawing of a wheelchair with the cross braces highlighted.

Slide 28
Caster fork

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The caster fork connects the caster wheel to the frame via the caster housing.

Graphic Description: a drawing of a wheelchair with the caster fork highlighted.

Slide 29
Caster wheel

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The caster wheel provides the base on which the caster tire is mounted and connects to the frame via the caster fork. Casters vary in size from 4 to 8 inches and increase the maneuverability of the wheelchair. The smaller the caster the greater the mobility. The larger the caster the greater the stability.

Graphic Description: a drawing of a wheelchair with the caster wheels highlighted.

Slide 30
Caster tire

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The caster tire provides the contact between the caster and the ground. Tire materials vary from solid plastic to pneumatic. The firmer the material the greater the maneuverability, the softer the material the more cushioned the ride.

Graphic Description: a drawing of a wheelchair with the caster tires highlighted.

Slide 31
Foot rest

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The flip-up foot rest provides the support surface on which the operator’s foot rests. This type of foot rest may be flipped-up out of the way during transfers.

Graphic Description: a drawing of a wheelchair with the flip up foot rests highlighted.

Slide 32
Heel loop

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The heel loop is usually made of nylon and attaches to the back surface of the foot rest. It provides support to the heel and helps to keep the foot positioned on the center of the foot rest.

Graphic Description: a drawing of a wheelchair with the heel loops highlighted.

The End

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Updated: March 12, 2002

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Please note: This information is provided a archival information from the Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center on Wheeled Mobility from 1993 to 2002.

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