Image of man in wheelchair from behind

Custom Wheelchairs: How to Build and Customize

What Is the Difference Between a Standard and Custom Wheelchair? 

Standard wheelchairs are typically used by those with temporary injuries or disabilities. People who are recovering from surgery or injuries may use a standard wheelchair for a limited amount of time. Standard wheelchairs are available to the masses and can easily be purchased through online retailers, or even your local BraunAbility dealer. Contact your local mobility dealer to see if they offer standard wheelchair purchase. 

Custom wheelchairs, on the other hand, are often used by those with permeant disabilities like paralysis, Cerebral Palsy, or Spina Bifida. As the name suggests, custom wheelchairs are built precisely to the body measurements of a disabled person. Custom wheelchairs require a prescription from a medical professional. 

What Is a Custom Wheelchair? 

From the wheelchair frame to the tires, cushion, footplate, and backrest, every element of a custom wheelchair is uniquely built to accommodate a person’s specific disability. For those with permanent disabilities, the customization and fit of a wheelchair are vital to maintaining independence and preventing pain and injury. If a wheelchair is not fitted properly, a wheelchair user can end up with several injuries including: 

  • Shoulder, wrist, and other upper extremity injuries 

  • Pressure sores 

  • Back pain 

  • Tissue and nerve damage 

  • Exacerbation of symptoms related to disability 

Types of Wheelchairs 

Wheelchairs come in two styles: Manual and power.

What Is a Custom Manual Wheelchair? 

Custom manual wheelchairs do not have as many parts as power wheelchairs; therefore, they do not require as much maintenance and are a more cost-effective option when it comes to custom wheelchairs. Custom manual wheelchairs can be easily broken down, so they’re smaller and easier to transport than power wheelchairs. Manual wheelchairs are typically used by disabled individuals who have all or some upper body function. 

What Is a Custom Power Wheelchair? 

Unlike manual wheelchairs, power wheelchairs do not require the wheelchair user to push themselves. Instead, power wheelchairs are fitted with assistive devices such as joysticks, which require minimal force from a wheelchair user to propel their chair in any direction they wish. Power chairs are typically made with additional features, including the ability to raise and lower the seat, and recline the chair. Power wheelchairs may be ideal for those with significant mobility impairments. 

How Much Does a Custom Wheelchair Cost? 

The cost of manual and power wheelchairs will depend on the wheelchair user’s wants and needs, as well as the materials with which the wheelchair is made. For example, when it comes to manual wheelchairs, those made with a titanium frame are lighter than wheelchairs made of aluminum or carbon fiber frames. Because of this, titanium frame wheelchairs will cost more than other manual wheelchairs. Some power wheelchairs offer both standing and sitting functions, however, this additional feature can cause a complex power wheelchair to cost significantly more than a standard power wheelchair. Standard manual wheelchairs start at a cost of roughly $12,000, whereas power wheelchairs start at roughly $40,000. Be sure to speak with your insurance provider prior to purchasing a custom wheelchair as some insurance companies will not cover certain wheelchair features. 

How Long Does It Take to Get a Custom Wheelchair Made? 

Generally, manual and power wheelchairs can be made in six months. This time frame can change depending on the communication between your medical providers, insurance companies, and your durable medical equipment company. Wheelchairs may also take longer to make if insurance denials occur. 

Can You Decorate or Customize a Wheelchair? 

Custom wheelchairs come with many features that are unique to a wheelchair user’s needs, but there are ways you can further make a custom wheelchair your own. 

How Do I Decorate Wheelchair Wheels? 

Want to customize your wheelchair with a favorite color, pattern, or even a movie character? Spoke skins and spoke guards can be used to show off your personality. Spoke skins come in multiple colors and can easily be attached to the spokes of your wheelchair. If you’re looking for something to really make your wheelchair stand out, spoke guards from Izzy Wheels are available in a wide range of styles. Whether you’re looking for cheetah print or Disney-themed wheels, Izzy Wheels spoke guards are sure to make a statement. Wheelchair spoke skins and spoke guards can easily be removed if you decide you want a different look. The front wheels of your wheelchair, also known as casters, can be customized as well. If traditional black wheelchair casters aren’t your style, light-up wheelchair casters may be available. 

Can I Customize a Wheelchair Frame? 

If you’re looking for more permanent customizations for your wheelchair, consider customizing your wheelchair frame. Wheelchair frames come in many colors and can typically be purchased in solid colors or accent colors. Whether you’re going for a sleek black look or a neon green frame with bright blue accents, wheelchair frames on both manual and power wheelchairs can be made to show off your favorite colors.  

Looking for Custom Wheelchairs? 

Purchasing a custom wheelchair can feel like a daunting task, which is why you’ll want to begin with research. A great place to start is with a durable medical equipment company like Permobil. Permobil’s website contains a vast amount of information on both power and manual wheelchairs, with product brochures, videos, and information regarding specific wheelchair parts like cushions and backrests, so you can find the perfect wheelchair for you. 

A custom wheelchair can only take you so far. For longer distances, like running your weekly errands, or getting to and from work, you may want to consider other mobility products like a wheelchair accessible van or vehicle transfer seat. Your local BraunAbility dealer is here to help you find a mobility solution that works for you. Contact your mobility dealer today. 

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