How to choose the right wheelchair for you

Written by
Helen West

Wheelchairs make a tremendous difference to the lives of users.

Owning the right wheelchair can be a liberating experience. They make it possible to socialise, go to work, and continue to do the things you enjoy.

If you want to maintain your independence and continue to live an active life, you may be considering purchasing a wheelchair. However, with so many options on the market, it can be difficult to decide which model or type will be right for you.

We’ve put together some things to consider when buying a new wheelchair.

Transit or self-propelled?

At Middletons, we offer two types of wheelchair: self-propel models, which move using the user’s own strength, and transit models (also known as attendant propel), which are designed to be pushed by another person.

Self-propel wheelchairs have large back wheels and ‘pushrims’ that you use to control the chair. They are great for those who want complete independence or don’t have someone else with them all the time, but they do require some upper arm strength and adequate movement in your arms.

Self-propel wheelchairs allow you to alter your position or change direction.

Self-propel wheelchairs usually have handles on the back, to allow the wheelchair to be pushed by another person if necessary. Even if you are not looking to propel yourself all the time, self-propel wheelchairs allow you to alter your position or change direction – for example, to turn around to talk to someone in a social setting.

However, if you are not able to push yourself, you may be better off with a transit wheelchair. Transit wheelchairs have smaller back wheels, which means they are usually lighter and easier to transport than self-propel models.

Transporting your wheelchair

If you only use your wheelchair some of the time, or like to take it with you on trips away or days out, you may want to consider a folding wheelchair. Many modern wheelchairs, including self-propel models, fold to a compact size, making them ideal for storing away or fitting in a car boot.

Remember, if you think you will need to lift your wheelchair into a car or cupboard, make sure you check how much it weighs, and if you will be able to lift it easily. Our Spirit travel chair even comes with its own lightweight travel bag with wheels, and weighs just 19lbs.

Spirit travel chair

Indoor or outdoor use?

It’s worth thinking about whether you will be using your wheelchair predominantly indoors or outdoors. Self-propel models are most suitable for outdoor use, as the large wheels allow for a more comfortable ride for the user. However, if you are looking for a lightweight chair to be used primarily indoors, a transit chair may be more appropriate.

The type of tyre is also important. Solid or rubber tyres are puncture proof, but offer a harder ride than pneumatic tyres. Pneumatic (air) tyres give a smoother ride, but are more prone to punctures, particularly if used outdoors.


Most of our wheelchairs have an upper weight limit of 18 stone. If you weigh more than this, you may want to think about a bariatric or reinforced wheelchair like this one.

Do you use your wheelchair for long periods of time?

Finally, if you are likely to sit in your wheelchair for a long time, either now or in the future, you may want to invest in a cushion like our vinyl memory foam cushion. Cushions add padding, help evenly distribute pressure, and make your chair more comfortable to use.

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