The process of finding the right wheelchair starts when your doctor writes a prescription. Ask for a referral to an occupational or physical therapist (OT or PT), who will:
- measure and fit you for your chair
- measure your house to be sure the equipment will fit
- project future measurements in case, for example, you gain weight
- scrutinize and compare vendor measurements
Consider a visit to a seating or wheelchair clinic with your therapist. Seating experts may have pressure-mapping equipment to document the kind of cushion you need, including tilt and recline mechanisms.
Ask your doctor or your Society chapter for the names of reputable local medical equipment providers, sometimes called rehabilitation technology suppliers. Look for CRTS staff (certified rehab technology supplier) and accreditation by RESNA, the Rehabilitation Engineering & Assistive Technology Society of North America. Try to work with someone with at least two years of experience.
Lifts ... and ramps
Ramps can get you into your house or apartment building, while stair lifts provide precious upward mobility. A reliable medical equipment vendor can ensure that any lift, interior or exterior, meets the safety codes established by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers.
Some lifts look like a seat on rails. Users transfer in and out, leaving their wheels behind. Other lifts carry a person in a wheelchair. These heavy-duty machines require more power. Be sure to check what you and your equipment weigh together against the lift’s weight limit.
You’ll probably obtain a ramp from a local builder, not a medical equipment vendor. Whether designed for your specific space or prefabricated, your ramp should meet regulations for the proper slope. The formula calls for one unit of height to 12 units of distance. Anything steeper can be dangerous. You or your builder should also check any neighborhood covenants before building an exterior ramp.