Choosing an Attendant-Propelled Wheelchair

INTRODUCTION

There are three different types of wheelchair on the market: self-propelled, electric/powered and those that are designed to be pushed solely by someone else, ie attendant-propelled.

This Information Sheet concentrates on the last category but other types of chair are referred to so that the user can make an informed choice from the wide range of chairs available.

The first section considers the user's basic needs in relation to the features of attendant-propelled wheelchairs, while the second contains information on the different types of attendant-propelled chair and options that will influence the user's choice of one model as opposed to another. This is followed by notes on general 'using' issues such as maintenance. The final section deals with provision of equipment.

Just because some users have to rely on other people to move their chairs around, perhaps because they have poor grip or are unable to manage alone; it does not necessarily follow that they will use an attendant-propelled wheelchair. These chairs, with the small back wheels, which are slightly lighter than most standard self-propelled chairs, may best meet the needs of 'occasional' users and those who use their chairs for short periods of time. But for those users who spend most of their time in their chairs (full-time users) and who rely on someone to push them, the versatility and manoeuvrability, especially over rough ground and kerbs, of the self-propelled (large rear wheels) chairs may make them worth considering. Active user chairs, the lightest wheelchairs on the market, are increasingly being used as attendant-propelled chairs, as they have large rear wheels that can be positioned slightly further forward than those on a standard wheelchair, so that weight is redistributed and less effort is needed to push them. For more information, see the Assist Ireland Information Sheet ‘Choosing an Active User Wheelchair’.

For up-to-date information on specific products and suppliers in Ireland, visit the ‘Products Directory' and 'Suppliers’ sections of the Assist Ireland online database (www.assistireland.ie). The information in this resource can also be accessed using the telephone support service on 0761 07 9200 during office hours or by emailing support@assistireland.ie.

The information contained in this document is strictly for information purposes only. There are hazards with all equipment and the suitability of any solution is totally dependent on the individual. It is strongly recommended to seek professional advice and assistance before you -consider buying any type of equipment mentioned in this Information Sheet.

WHAT DOES THE USER NEED?

A stable seating base

Even though these users do not need to propel the wheelchair over any great distance, a stable seating base will enable them to carry out daily living tasks as independently as possible. It is much easier to eat, use a communication aid, and transfer to and from the wheelchair from a stable symmetrical seating base than from one that does not give much support.

Some wheelchair users may never fully develop the ability to sit unaided. Others may gradually lose the ability, perhaps as the result of a progressive disabling condition. For people with mild to moderate seating difficulties, the correct size and positioning of the wheelchair seat unit components may be all that is needed to provide the user with a stable seating base. Users with severe seating disabilities may need a specialised seating system.

The following factors need to be considered:

Seat size

Maximum stability will be achieved if the user's body fits comfortably into the chair seat. If his/her weight is evenly distributed over the largest area possible, this will also provide pressure relief.

Arrows indicating the width of a user for choosing an appropriate seat size

If the seat is too wide, users often sit asymmetrically in order to feel supported. If the seat is too narrow, it will be uncomfortable and increase the risk of pressure sores.

Arrows indicating the depth of a user for choosing an appropriate seat size

If the seat is too short, the full length of the thighs will not be supported and too much pressure will be transferred onto the buttocks.

If the seat is too long, a pressure area may develop behind the knee, and the user may not get adequate support from the backrest.

Active user chairs are often supplied with a range of seat depth adjustments and some have frame extenders if necessary.

Shape and angle of seat

The seat needs to be level. A sagging wheelchair seat canvas will cause users to sit asymmetrically or with their thighs and knees rolled together. This may cause undue pressure and 'shearing' - the term used when the outer layer of skin is pulled in a certain direction while distorting and restricting the underlying blood vessels. This may lead to pressure sores.

When maintaining a good seating posture the angle between the thighs and the trunk is critical as it determines the stability of the pelvis. An angle of 90° is considered best for most people for daily activities. Using a contoured or ramped seat or cushion, ie very slightly lower at the back to accommodate the shape of the buttocks, is the easiest way of achieving this.

All wheelchair users should be sitting on a cushion that has been chosen at the same time as the wheelchair and fits its seat. Full-time wheelchair users will probably need a pressure relief cushion; occasional users may only need one for comfort. For more information, see the Assist Ireland Information Sheet 'Choosing Pressure Relief Equipment'.

To fully stabilise the lower body, the foot support needs to be considered next.

Footrest length

If an angle of 90° between the user's thighs and hips is achieved, most people will be comfortable if their knees are also at an angle of approximately 90°.

The height of the footrests on the wheelchair should be set so that they support the legs and feet and, in turn, the underside of the thighs. This will reduce further pressure on the buttocks. If the footrests are too high or the seat too low, the user's knees will be higher than the hips so that pressure under the buttocks is increased.

If the footrests are too low, or the seat too high, the user's knees will be lower than the hips and pressure will build up under the thighs.

Footrest angle

For users with long legs, some wheelchairs have footrests that are set out at a wider angle in front, so that the leg length can be accommodated without hindering activities such as kerb climbing.

Some active user wheelchairs have a choice of two or three footrests, each of which is set at different angles.

Footplate angle

The angle of some footplates (ie the flat plate at the end of the footrest on which the feet are placed) can sometimes be adjusted. Feet can be very strong stimulators of muscle contractions of the whole body, may cause extension patterns, or tremor spasms in the legs. This is a common problem experienced by users with MS (multiple sclerosis). By making the footrest/footplate angle less than 90° the user's feet are prevented from slipping forwards and down off the footplates. This also stretches the calf muscles and may inhibit extension patterns and spasms.

Arrows showing the length of the user's lower legs for appropriate footrest adjustment

Backrest height

The upper body is stabilised by the support from the backrest, which should be high enough to stabilise the upper lumbar region. Above this level, the backrest height is a matter of individual need and/or personal preference.

Some users find that if they have a stable seating base they only need a backrest that comes halfway up their back, but the disadvantage of a wheelchair with a large backrest is that the pushing handles are often too low for an attendant to push comfortably. Some active user chairs have adjustable-height or tall, removable push handles to overcome this problem.

Backrest shape and angle

Most users will benefit from a backrest with an appropriately shaped lumbar area. This, combined with a suitable backrest angle, should provide support and balance for the upper body.

Arm support

In theory, if someone has a stable seating base, then he/she should not need armrests. Armrests should not to be used to help someone to stay in the chair – if this is the case, the user's seating base should be reassessed. A more sophisticated seating system may be necessary.

However, armrests provide useful rest and stabilising positions for users who tire rapidly and/or those who have weakness or upper limb neck muscles.

Armrest height

When armrests are properly adjusted they should support the user's forearms comfortably with the elbows at 90°. If they are too high, the user's shoulders will be hunched; if they are too low, the user will tend to slump to one side.

Arrows showing the appropriate distance between elbow and knee for appropriate positioning of armrests

Armrests also provide users who stand up directly from their wheelchairs with an appropriate surface to push down on. However, they do make approaching tables and work surfaces difficult and often have to be removed for transfers.

Having sorted out the seating base on the wheelchair, the next thing to consider is the type and set up of the wheelbase. For occasional and short-term users, a lightweight, standard, attendant-only propelled wheelchair may be quite sufficient to meet the needs of both user and the person who is pushing. However, for full time wheelchair users, or for those people who are pushed for long periods out of doors, it may be worth considering an active user wheelchair with large rear wheels.

A chair that is easy to manoeuvre

The ability to be able to tip the front of the wheelchair so that the front castors clear the ground has an important effect on manoeuvrability. This helps the attendant to negotiate small obstacles such as an uneven surface or grids. 'Tippiness' is the term used to describe the ease with which this can be done.

The position of the wheels affects the ease with which a chair can be tipped. The wheels on standard wheelchairs tend to be set quite far back, so that more leverage and therefore more energy, is needed to lift the castors than is the case with an active user chair on which the wheels are set further forward under the user's body. This not only affects the leverage but also the distribution of weight over the wheels, which, in turn, affects the 'tippiness' of the chair. The higher the percentage of weight placed over the back wheels, the easier it is to lift the front castors off the ground. When the rear wheels of an active user wheelchair are moved forward, more weight is placed over them. Standard wheelchairs have a weight distribution of 40:60 front to back wheel ratio; active user wheelchairs have a 30:70 ratio.

This weight distribution also affects the rolling resistance, ie how much energy is lost during pushing. This can be calculated by dividing the weight of the wheelchair by the area of the wheel that is in contact with the ground. The area of large rear wheels in contact with the ground is approximately twice as much area as that of small front castor wheels (eg 10mm:5mm).

The average active user wheelchair weighs 12kg and the weight is distributed 30:70 front to back wheel. Using the above calculation, it can be seen that it has a rolling resistance of 1.5.

If a standard, self-propelled wheelchair weighs 18kg and the weight is distributed 40:60 front to back, again using the above calculation, it can be worked out that this type of wheelchair has a rolling resistance of 2.5.

If a standard, attendant-propelled wheelchair (with small wheels and therefore small area back and front) weighs 15.5kg, the above calculation will show that it has a rolling resistance of 3.1.

The above shows that the larger the wheel, the less energy is needed to move it. Also, to achieve the minimum rolling resistance, as much weight as possible without compromising stability needs to be placed over the larger back wheels. This is why many people prefer to use a wheelchair with large rear wheels as an 'attendant'-propelled chair. From the point of view of the person pushing, the large rear wheels are easier to manoeuvre up and down the kerbs as well as over rough and uneven ground.

An energy-conserving chair

A wheelchair should be easy to move around so that an attendant has to expend as little energy as possible. This is especially important if he/she has to push the person in the wheelchair for most of the day.

The length of the wheelbase also affects how much energy is needed to manoeuvre a chair. As the wheelbase is decreased, the turning circle is also shortened, with the result that less energy is needed to turn. Active user wheelchairs have adjustable wheel axle plates, which allow the rear wheels to be moved forward to decrease the wheelbase. Moving the rear wheel forward also has the effect of making the chair tip more easily, so a compromise position needs to be found.

A chair that is easy to steer

If a wheelchair's rear wheels can be cambered (ie angled towards the chair at the top), the effort required to propel it across a slope in a straight line will be reduced dramatically. Anyone who pushes regularly outdoors and has to tackle pavements will therefore benefit from cambered wheels.

Cambered wheels also increase the ease with which the user can turn the wheelchair. For everyday use, camber up to 5° is acceptable; beyond this the chair often becomes too wide to go through doorways and into small rooms. Wheelchairs with small rear wheels cannot be cambered.

Wheelchair with standard wheels

Wheelchair with cambered wheels

A chair that is easy to transport

Most people using an attendant-propelled wheelchair will rely on someone else to lift and carry it around. Wheelchairs can be cumbersome and heavy to lift into a car. Chairs with a cross-bracing mechanism underneath can be folded and can be made lighter by removing the legrests and armrests and quick release wheels, where possible. There are a few 'compact' chairs that fold forwards into a 'golf bag' shape. These are easier to transport since they form a compact package.

Folded-up wheelchair

A chair that is versatile/adaptable

The body shape of a person, size and his/her disabilities do not always remain static. As changes occur, wheelchair requirements may also change. Chairs that have interchangeable components or those which are adjustable can be altered to meet changing needs.

A chair that meets the carer's needs

If the person who is pushing the wheelchair is also the carer, it is especially important that the wheelchair meets as many of the carer's needs as possible. Reducing energy expenditure and increasing the chair's manoeuvrability and transportability will make life easier for the carer as well as helping to minimise the risk of back injury.

In addition, it should be possible for the carer to take the wheelchair user to a great many places that had previously seemed either difficult to get to, or even inaccessible.

A chair that makes the user look good and feel confident

A chair that is energy efficient and looks aesthetically pleasing will inspire confidence in the user.

ATTENDANT-PROPELLED WHEELCHAIRS

What features should you consider when choosing a new wheelchair?

FRAME

Materials

Steel - strong, cheap but heavy.

Aluminium - lighter and not too expensive.

Folding frame

Enables wheelchair to be folded flat for easier storage and transporting.

Compact folding frame

Folds to a smaller size than the average folding frame so can be stored in small places.

Tipping levers

Enable an attendant to assist in kerb climbing.

CASTORS/WHEELS

An attendant-propelled wheelchair may have four fixed pneumatic wheels or wheels at the back and two castors at the front. If the wheels are fixed they are more difficult to manoeuvre as the chair has to be tipped onto its back wheels to raise the front wheels off the ground in order to turn the chair.

Pneumatic wheels/castors

Offer better shock absorption than solid ones but may puncture.

Solid

Hard-wearing but may provide a rougher ride.

Narrow/wide profile

Wide profile tyres tend to provide better shock absorption than narrow profile tyres.

REAR WHEELS

Pneumatic/solid

As above

BRAKES

Most brakes rely on pressure against the tyre - a few press against the hub which has the advantage that the brakes work even if the tyres are quite flat. Rear operated brakes can be an option if users could harm themselves on wheel-mounted brakes - the standard brake levers are removed and replaced with attendant-operated foot or hand controls at the rear of the chair.

FOOTRESTS

Fixed

Can get in the way when transferring.

Detachable

Reduce size and weight of the wheelchair for storage and transportation.

Swing-away

Can be moved out of the way for transferring.

Elevating

For users who need to have their legs raised for long periods.

FOOTSTRAPS

To stop the user's feet from sliding off the back of the footplate and getting caught in the wheels.

ARMRESTS

Desk-style

Allow access to work surfaces, but do not offer much arm support.

Adjustable-height

To provide maximum support.

Fold-up/drop-down/swing-away

May be more convenient for someone who needs to transfer sideways than detachable ones, which can be mislaid.

Detachable

Reduce size/weight of wheelchair for storage and transporting.

Backrest and seat

It is important that users are accurately assessed for the right sized seat and correct height backrest, as these features will determine posture and comfort.

Weight

A lighter weight wheelchair is usually an advantage as it is easier for the carer to push and lift.

GENERAL INFORMATION

MAINTENANCE

Although it is important that wheelchairs should be checked regularly and serviced by an approved repairer, regular maintenance should also be carried out at home to keep it in good, safe working order. If the wheelchair has been obtained through the local wheelchair service, it should always be provided with a manual on how to care for it. If bought privately, this information should be sought from and provided by the manufacturer or retailer.

Before any major repairs are carried out at home, it is advisable to check that the terms of guarantee are not being invalidated.

The following is a maintenance guide for attendant-only-propelled and standard self-propelled wheelchairs. For additional details on these, and for active user wheelchair maintenance information, contact the supplier.

Tyres

  • The pressure in the tyres should be checked weekly. Use a tyre pressure gauge and pump up to the correct pressure marked on the tyre side. Use an air line at a local garage with caution. Use pump in short sharp bursts to avoid over inflation of the tyre.
  • Check for punctures or weak/cracked tread. Change the tyre if necessary. A bicycle repair shop may be able to assist if replacement tyres are needed.

The following should be checked every month:Wheels

  • Check they are free spinning. If they wobble or loosen and take off the lock-nut and tighten the axle bolt.

Spokes

  • Check for loose or broken spokes. Tighten loose spokes so that they are the same tension as the others. Replace broken spokes.

Hand rims

  • Check for rough or sharp edges. Sand or file down if necessary.

Brakes

  • Check they are not coming loose. Reposition or tighten using screwdriver or spanner.
  • Check that the brakes and tyres are making contact. If necessary, pump tyres to correct pressure.
  • Check that they are lubricated. Use silicon spray, not oil or grease.

Footrests

  • Check that pivot parts are lubricated and that heel loops are securely anchored.

Armrests/legrests

  • Check for sharp edges.

Push handle grips

  • Check that they are secure.

Frame

  • Check for small dents or cracks – these can affect the frame strength.
  • Dirt should be removed with a damp cloth. In winter, to prevent corrosion, check for and regularly remove salt which might have been picked up from the roads.

Ball bearings

  • Nearly all wheelchairs now have sealed, maintenance-free ball bearings.
  • Unusual grinding noises or excessive wheel wobble usually indicates that the bearings are weak and need replacing. This will usually be carried out by the approved repairer.

Fork stem bearings

These should be checked every three months. Ensure that the axle bolt and nut allow the castor fork to swivel freely. If it is too loose, the wheelchair becomes difficult to steer.

PROVISION OF EQUIPMENT

Medical Card Holders

Equipment for people with disabilities, sometimes referred to as aids and appliances, is usually supplied free of charge to medical card holders. The card holder must first be assessed by a suitably qualified therapist who can recommend and prescribe the most appropriate equipment.

Long Term Illness Card Holders

People who have one of the conditions listed as qualifying under the Department of Health’s Long Term Illness Scheme may be eligible to receive items of equipment, essential for the primary condition, free of charge. Assessment by the relevant professional is required.

Hospital Treatment

People in hospital may have aids and appliances provided free of charge when they are prescribed as part of in-hospital treatment in a public hospital.

Health Insurance Schemes

The main companies offering private health insurance in Ireland are:

  • Voluntary Health Insurance (VHI)
  • Irish Life Health
  • Laya Healthcare
  • GloHealth

Some policies provide members with cover for a limited number of aids and appliances under their out-patient schemes. A list of approved appliances is available on request. A claim for the reimbursement (part or full) will be subject to a member’s out-patient excess. Medical certification is usually necessary. Contact your health insurance company’s Customer Services to check if a particular appliance is covered by your policy.

Some employers have their own special health insurance schemes which provide cover for their employees. The employee’s family is also often covered. Check with the employer to see what, if any, equipment is covered under the scheme.

ASSESSMENT

Depending on the type of equipment required, a qualified therapist will assess the individual and make a recommendation to the body responsible for the provision of the equipment or to the person or agency who has requested the assessment. Generally the following applies, but the assessment process and provision may vary in different parts of the country.

  • Occupational therapists will assess for aids to daily living – these include wheelchairs, mobility aids, specialised chairs, bath, shower and toilet aids, stairlifts, hoists etc
  • physiotherapists will assess for movement, strength and balance training equipment, walking aids and exercise devices
  • speech and language therapists will assess for communication, speech therapy, and training aids
  • other relevant therapists and specialists may also be involved in carrying out assessments, depending on the equipment or appliance required.

All the different therapists described above are based in hospitals, community care areas, and with various voluntary agencies. For more information, contact the Community Care section of your Health Services Executive area or the relevant hospital department as appropriate.

SHORT TERM LOAN/HIRE OF WHEELCHAIRS

Private hire

Quite a variety of equipment, including wheelchairs, hospital beds, hoists and a variety of walking aids, can be hired for daily, weekly or monthly periods. Many of the companies and voluntary organisations that provide this service can be found in the Golden Pages under ‘Disabled Persons Products & Services’, or by contacting your local public health nurse or community occupational therapist. Assist Ireland maintains a list of companies which hire out equipment on the www.assistireland.ie website, call 0761 07 9200 or email support@assistireland.ie.

Before you choose to hire, consider the following:

  • Does the company provide a delivery and/or collection service and, if so, are there any additional charges?
  • Does the company ask for a deposit and is it refundable?
  • If hiring long term, is the vehicle subject to a six-monthly service and, if so, will a replacement wheelchair be supplied in the mean time?
  • Who is responsible for maintenance if you have a puncture, for example if you are hiring for holiday use, are you permitted to take the vehicle overseas? Are there additional charges, and/or an increase in the deposit needed?
  • Are you obliged to take out insurance? Is this included in the price, and what does the insurance cover?
  • When hiring a wheelchair, make sure you understand how to operate it and feel confident using it; and make sure you receive instructions on how to charge the batteries (if required) and carry out other simple maintenance.

Shopmobility

A Shopmobility scheme operates in Liffey Valley Shopping Centre in Clondalkin, Mahon Point Shopping Centre in Cork, Dundrum Town Centre in Dublin, Blanchardstown Shopping Centre in Dublin 15, and Whitewater Shopping Centre in Newbridge, Co Kildare. This scheme enables anyone to get the loan of a manual wheelchair, a powered wheelchair or a powered scooter while shopping. This is a free service and helpful for anyone who finds shopping a tiring experience. To avail of this service, you must have two pieces of identification with you including photo ID. It is advisable to ring beforehand, particularly coming up to a holiday period or a bank holiday weekend (See Useful Addresses).

Some other shopping centres also have manual wheelchairs that they loan out to customers. Contact Customer Services of the shopping centre to check on the availability of this service.

PURCHASE OF EQUIPMENT

Private Purchase of Equipment

Private purchase may be necessary if the user is not eligible to obtain the necessary equipment from the local area health services. Some people may also choose to buy privately because they want the wider choice of equipment available on the private market.

The purchaser has the option of:

  • personally funding the cost of the equipment
  • applying to charities/benevolent funds etc for funding
  • buying second-hand
  • checking with your health insurance company, if a member, to see if, or what, reimbursement is available.

Private Purchase – Applying for a VAT Refund

VAT paid on certain equipment which is privately purchased for use by a person with a disability can be reclaimed from Revenue. The relief applies to VAT on the purchase of goods which are aids and appliances designed to assist a disabled person to overcome a disability in the performance of their daily functions. Most aids to daily living and communication aids are included. Goods designed for leisure purposes are not. An invoice clearly stating the VAT content of the total amount paid must be included with the application. Form VAT 61a is available from Revenue or can be downloaded from their website (see Useful Addresses).

Funding from charitable sources

If you have little or no disposable income, but do not have a medical card, you could consider applying to a local charity, benevolent fund or occupational fund for financial assistance. Some such organisations have budgets for exceptional cases or needs and requests will be dealt with in confidence.

Private Occupational Therapists

Occupational therapists in private practice can carry out assessments in the home or workplace, and if home modifications are being considered, provide a report detailing the recommendations. It is important to ensure the therapist is experienced in relation to your particular needs. Make sure to discuss fees before engaging anyone’s services, and also check what the assessment fee includes (or does not include). The profession’s representative body, the Association of Occupational Therapists in Ireland (AOTI), keeps a list of contact details of member occupational therapists working in private practice in Ireland. This list is available from the AOTI (see Useful Addresses).

Private Physiotherapists

Physiotherapists can assess for movement, strength and balance training equipment, walking aids and exercise devices and recommend accordingly. If you wish to consult a physiotherapist you can go directly to your local chartered physiotherapist or ask your GP to refer you. It is important to ensure the therapist you consult is experienced in relation to your particular needs. Chartered physiotherapists work in hospitals and in the community where treatment is covered under the public health service. They also work in private practice and can be contacted through the profession’s representative body, the Irish Society of Chartered Physiotherapists (see Useful Addresses), or through the Golden Pages.

Second-hand equipment

Buying second-hand can be a cheaper way of finding a solution to your mobility difficulties but, since choice is more limited, you must make sure that you do not compromise on your essential requirements. Also check that what you are buying is in good working order. You do have certain consumer rights when buying second-hand; for example, the seller must accurately describe the product he/she is selling; and you should be made fully aware of any faults that need attention. If possible, obtain a written description of the product from the seller before you buy so that, should you find any faults, you can get your money back more easily.

There are basically two sources of second-hand equipment: equipment retailers and private individuals.

Buying from a mobility equipment retailer

Some commercial suppliers of wheelchairs also buy unwanted vehicles, recondition them, and then offer them for sale with a short guarantee of, for example, three months. Buying second-hand from a retailer is generally more expensive than buying from a private individual, but the wheelchair is likely to have been serviced and should be in reasonable working order.

Buying from a private individual

Some mainstream magazines and several disability organisations publish journals that contain advertisements for second-hand equipment. If you are buying second-hand from a private individual, you must make sure that the wheelchair has been regularly maintained, that you also receive accompanying literature, for example a care manual; and that you receive instructions on how to control and steer the wheelchair. You will also need to find the local company able to service your wheelchair and carry out future repairs.

Funding from charitable sources

If you have little or no disposable income, but do not have a medical card, you could consider applying to a local charity, benevolent fund or occupational fund for financial assistance. Some such organisations have budgets for exceptional cases or needs and requests will be dealt with in confidence.

TRY BEFORE YOU BUY

Wheelchairs are expensive so it is essential that you do not rush into buying a vehicle that you later find is not entirely suitable. If the wheelchair is being provided by the health services, the occupational therapist and wheelchair service provider will be able to assist you in selecting the most suitable wheelchair for you.

Before buying privately, it is strongly recommended that you seek the advice of an occupational therapist on the suitability of the wheelchair to your condition or situation. It is also recommended that you try out and compare a range of different wheelchairs if possible.

You can also arrange to visit a supplier’s showroom (if they have one). Contact details of suppliers can be found under ‘Disabled Persons Products & Services’ in the Golden Pages and some may have a website with details of their products and services which you can view online.

Sometimes suppliers organise exhibitions of different types of equipment in various locations around the country allowing people to see and try equipment. These exhibitions are often advertised in the local paper or on local radio. You can also request to be put on a supplier’s mailing list so you will be notified if there is an event being held in your area.

Some companies will give equipment for a try-out period before purchase. Enquiries should also be made about maintenance (if it will be required), maintenance contracts (if relevant) and whether a user manual is provided with the equipment (essential).

When purchasing from any supplier, it is important to remember that it is their business to sell. There may be several suppliers of that particular piece of equipment or different manufacturers of the same type of equipment, so always shop around.

Before you commit to buying, check the following:

  • What is the delivery time?
  • Will the wheelchair arrive readily assembled?
  • What guarantee is available?
  • What after-care service is offered?
  • How much is the call out charge?
  • Will spare parts be brought to the home?
  • If the chair has to be taken away for repairs will a 'loan chair' be offered?
  • Does the manufacturer offer insurance schemes?

USEFUL PUBLICATIONS

  • Building for Everyone
    Publication which examines buildings and the external environment to achieve equality and inclusiveness for everyone. Available from:
    National Disability Authority
    25 Clyde Road
    Dublin 4
    Tel: 01-608 0400
    Fax: 01-660 9935
    Email: nda@nda.ie
    Website: www.nda.ie

USEFUL ADDRESSES

  • Association of Occupational Therapists of Ireland (AOTI)
    Office 1 & 2
    1st Floor
    Haymarket House
    Smithfield
    Dublin 7
    Tel: 01-874 8136
    Email: info@aoti.ie
    Website: www.aoti.ie

  • Irish Society of Chartered Physiotherapists (ISCP)
    Royal College of Surgeons
    St Stephen's Green
    Dublin 2
    Tel: 01-402 2148
    Fax: 01-402 2160
    Email: info@iscp.ie
    Website: www.iscp.ie

  • VAT (Unregistered) Repayments Section
    Revenue Commissioners
    FREEPOST
    Central Repayments Office
    M: TEK II Building
    Armagh Road
    Monaghan
    Tel: 047 621 000
    LoCall: 1890 60 60 61
    Email: cromon@revenue.ie
    Website: www.revenue.ie

  • Shopmobility(a free service offering manual wheelchairs, powered wheelchairs and scooters to members of the public with limited mobility for periods of up to a day)
    Liffey Valley Shopping Centre
    Quarryvale
    Clondalkin
    Dublin 22
    Tel: 01-620 8731

  • Shopmobility(a free service offering manual wheelchairs, powered wheelchairs and scooters to members of the public with limited mobility for periods of up to a day)
    Mahon Point Shopping Centre
    Mahon
    Cork
    Tel: 021-431 3033

  • Shopmobility(a free service offering manual wheelchairs, powered wheelchairs and scooters to members of the public with limited mobility for periods of up to a day)
    Blanchardstown Shopping Centre
    Red Car Park - Marks and Spencers Entrance
    Blanchardstown
    Dublin 15
    Tel: 01-821 1911

  • Shopmobility(a free service offering manual wheelchairs, powered wheelchairs and scooters to members of the public with limited mobility for periods of up to a day)
    Red Car Park (Level 2M)
    Dundrum Town Centre
    Dundrum
    Dublin 14
    Tel: 01-298 7982

  • Shopmobility(a free service offering manual wheelchairs, powered wheelchairs and scooters to members of the public with limited mobility for periods of up to a day)
    Green Car Park
    Whitewater Shopping Centre
    Cutlery Road
    Newbridge
    Co Kildare
    Tel: 045-450736

  • Irish Wheelchair Association (IWA)
    Áras Chúchulainn
    Blackheath Drive
    Clontarf
    Dublin 3
    Tel: 01-818 6400
    Fax: 01-833 3873
    Email: info@iwa.ie
    Website: www.iwa.ie

  • Disabled Living Foundation (DLF)(UK charity providing advice and information and a comprehensive up-to-date database of disability equipment available in the UK)
    Ground Floor
    Landmark House
    Hammersmith Bridge Road
    London W6 9EJ
    England
    Tel: 0044 207 289 6111
    Email: info@dlf.org.uk
    Website: www.dlf.org.uk

  • Rica(independent research body in UK which produces guides for older and disabled consumers based on professional research)
    G03, The Wenlock
    50-52 Wharf Road
    London
    N1 7EU
    England
    Tel: 0044 207 427 2460
    Fax: 0044 207 427 2468
    Email: mail@rica.org.uk
    Website: www.rica.org.uk