Standard wheelchairs contain a number of different standard parts that may need repair or replacement. Those who use wheelchairs or assist someone who uses a wheelchair will have an easier time using the chair if they are familiar with those parts. Knowing the different wheelchair part terminology will make it easier to maintain and update the chair when necessary.
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Seat and Back
The seat and back area of standard wheelchairs are made out of some type of upholstery. Popular materials for the seat and back are vinyl or nylon, both of which are easy to clean. Vinyl is non-porous while nylon allows the fabric to breathe and provide some air circulation. Wheelchair seats and back are two separate pieces that are attached to the metal frames surrounding each area. Some are padded for extra comfort.
Wheels and Tires
Wheelchair wheels and tires come in varying sizes. Standard wheelchairs are outfitted with two larger rear wheels and two smaller front wheels, or casters. Most rear wheel diameters range from 22 to 24 inches with wheel bearings, or the central piece inside the wheel, that measure about ½ inch in diameter. Rear wheels are fixed to move backward or forward, while the front wheels can turn and spin to manoeuvre the chair. Front casters range from about 3 to 5 inches in diameter and come with the wheel bearings already attached. Tires fit on the outside of the wheels, sized to match, and are made of a synthetic rubber, such as urethane. Different types of wheels are available for indoor, street or varying use.
Wheelchair handrims are the rims attached to the outside of the rear wheels that allow the chair's user to propel the wheels with his hands. Handrims are available in many different styles, some designed ergonomically, for individual comfort.
Wheel locks are levered devices that attach to the outside of the rear wheels used for braking or locking the chair into place. They are made of metal and feature a lever attached to a handle that is depressed to slow or stop the wheels. Wheel lock extensions are available to lengthen the handle so the chair's user can have easier access to reaching it.
Standard wheelchairs have two armrests, one on each side of the seat area. The armrests are usually padded on the inside and have an exterior layer of vinyl or another tough fabric for durability. The armrests attach to the top of the side rails and come in varying lengths. Full length armrests measure about 6 inches long while desk length armrests, which are a bit shorter to manoeuvre the chair beneath a desk, are about 5.5 inches long.
Footplates are metal shelf-like devices attached to the bottom of the chair on which the chair's user rests his feet. They can be one larger, central plate that houses both feet or two smaller plates, one for each foot. Footplates can be outfitted with optional calf pads, which are similar to armrests but for the legs, that attach to the arm of the footplate and cushion the calves. Calf pads are covered in a durable material with padding beneath the outer coating.
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