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5 Types of Manual Wheelchairs

Sep 03, 2023 0 comments
5 Types of Manual Wheelchairs

Since the introduction of the first commercially designed modern wheelchairs in the early 1930s, there has been a rapid increase in the variety of wheelchairs available. 

One of the most common wheelchairs among users today are manual wheelchairs—wheeled mobility devices designed to be pushed by the user or with the help of a caregiver. 

Ideal for anyone with limited mobility, manual wheelchairs allow users to maintain their independence and carry out activities they love, regardless of their condition.

Every manual wheelchair was specifically designed with its user in mind, which is why you must consider factors like the ones below before settling on one: 

  • Frequency of use: If the wheelchair will be used all day or for many hours during the day (at least four hours), it must include the correct seating and backrest. Consider adding a foam cushion for extra comfort. 
  • The weight of the wheelchair: Wheelchairs come in various weights and sizes. Generally, heavy-duty wheelchairs are stronger and accommodate a larger weight capacity than lightweight wheelchairs, which are easy to carry and transport.
  • The wheelchair’s capability: Some wheelchairs can be folded to fit into the boot of a car, making them perfect for people on the move or those who’d love a mobile wheelchair. Others have adjustable foot rests and arm rests for increased comfort. 

Check out our manual wheelchairs buyers guide to learn more.

Now, let’s discuss the various styles of manual wheelchairs to help you understand their differences. 

Table of Contents

1: Standard Manual Wheelchair

Standard 20 Inch Steel Wheelchair PA146

Standard wheelchairs are typically basic, entry level manual wheelchairs. Most are made with hardened steel rather than light materials like aluminium, which explains their sturdy stature.

They’re ideal for anyone on a budget looking for a durable and practical wheelchair with a wide seat. 

In terms of adjustability, some manual wheelchairs have adjustable foot rests and arm rests which enable proper positioning in the lower and upper extremities, respectively. 

Other key features of standard manual wheelchairs include: 

  • Seat widths and depths: The seat widths of standard manual wheelchairs range from 40 cm to 50 cm, though many models have a 40 cm depth that suits most people.
  • Weights and capacities: The net weight of most standard wheelchairs ranges between 14 kg and 23 kg with a weight capacity of 113–135 kg. 
  • Casters, wheels, and tyres: The most common wheel configuration for standard manual wheelchairs is two 20 cm casters on the front and two 60 cm wheels on the back, both with solid tyres.
  • Brakes: All standard manual wheelchairs include brakes mounted close to the front of the side frame. These brakes press on the tyres and keep the wheelchair from rolling.

There are two major categories of standard manual wheelchairs: self propelled and attendant propelled wheelchairs. 

Let’s discuss them below: 

Self Propelled Wheelchairs

DAYS Swift Self Propelled Wheelchair with Handbrakes

Self propelled manual wheelchairs are designed to give users maximum independence by letting them push the wheelchair themselves. 

This is achieved through the use of handles on the rear wheels that the user spins to move the wheelchair around.

Self propelled wheelchairs are characterised by larger rear wheels that provide balance and make it easier for the user to propel the wheelchair forward or back. 

Attendant Propelled Wheelchairs

Unlike self propelled manual wheelchairs, attendant propelled wheelchairs are designed to be pushed by the user’s caregiver or attendant. 

This makes them suitable for individuals with serious health conditions or those who only need the wheelchair on a temporary basis due to an injury and can’t move on their own. 

In general, the strengths of a standard manual wheelchair lies in its affordability, durability, and ease of maintenance. Its sturdy construction makes it excellent for repeated applications.

types of manual wheelchairs photo snippet

2: Lightweight Manual Wheelchair

The lightweight manual chair is a modification of the standard wheelchair. It’s constructed using light materials like aluminium, with its net weight typically being less than 20 kg.

Lightweight manual chairs provide the most independence of movement with the least effort required from the user. 

They’re ideal for: 

  • People who are always on the move since some can be folded to fit into smaller cars
  • Users who spend many hours a day in a wheelchair
  • Users travelling by air, as most lightweight wheelchairs are airline-approved

Lightweight manual wheelchairs are among the most common types of wheelchairs in use today. Various options and configurations are available to allow users to select what works best for them. 

If you’re in the market for one, consider the following factors before making a purchase:

  • Weight capacity: Opt for a lightweight wheelchair that can withstand your weight with a 20% buffer. If you weigh 80 kg, choose one with a maximum weight capacity of 100 kg.
  • Portability: If you move a lot, ensure your chosen wheelchair has a foldable backrest so you can fold it into a boot. 
  • Seat width: If you’ll be spending hours in the wheelchair, ensure it has a spacious seat width to keep you comfortable and stable.
  • Safety features: If you need added protection, choose lightweight wheelchairs with heel straps and a safety belt. 

3: Ultra Lightweight Manual Wheelchair

DRIVE Ultra Lightweight Portable Wheelchair LAWC

Majority of ultra lightweight manual wheelchairs are quite similar to lightweight chairs, but with improved adjustability for greater fine-tuning.

Ultra lightweight wheelchairs are the lightest manual wheelchairs, some weighing as little as 8 kg. This makes them easy to lift, while their foldable nature enables you to fit in the boot of any car. 

Ultra lightweight wheelchairs are designed for: 

  • People who use them for hours at a time or full-time wheelchair users who need extra comfort
  • Wheelchair users who live an active lifestyle but need a device with better performance
  • Wheelchair users who spend a lot of time travelling and need a portable and foldable wheelchair they can easily lift and fold to fit their car’s boot

Many types of manual wheelchairs fall under the ultra lightweight category. These include: 

Transit Wheelchairs

DRIVE Lightweight SD2 Transit Propelled Wheelchair

Transit wheelchairs, also called transport wheelchairs, are not designed for independent mobility, but for assisted mobility on short trips where they’ll need to be folded and packed away in a van, car or plane.

Unlike self-propelled wheelchairs, transit wheelchairs have smaller wheels at the back so the caregiver can quickly and easily manoeuvre the chair. 

They’re incredibly lightweight for easy lifting, with a net weight ranging from 5–20 kg.

Folding Wheelchairs

DRIVE Lightweight XS2 Self Propelled Wheelchair

Just like transit wheelchairs, folding manual wheelchairs are travel-friendly and can easily fold into a compact form for convenient storage during transportation.

Designed to fold without much fuss, these wheelchairs make daily errands and special excursions very manageable. 

If you don’t consistently use your wheelchair, a folding manual wheelchair is the perfect choice for you. It can be stored away when not in use or placed in a vehicle’s boot ready for use when the need arises.

4: Bariatric Manual Wheelchair

MAXMOBILITY Omega HD1 22" Bariatric Wheelchair 250kg

Also known as heavy-duty manual wheelchairs, bariatric wheelchairs are designed to provide maximum comfort for heavier users

They’re bigger than a regular manual wheelchair, giving users comfort and extra support for their upper and lower back.

They can also accommodate higher weight capacities, sometimes up to 300 kg and have larger seat widths of up to 75 cm, allowing users to sit more comfortably.

The backrest and the seat can be tilted to take into consideration the user’s centre of gravity and provide extra support when needed.

Bariatric wheelchairs have a heavy-duty frame with cross-bar supports and reinforced steel gussets that strengthen key areas on the seat. This makes them super durable and better able to withstand regular use.

On the downside, the sturdy construction makes them heavier and more difficult to transport compared to other manual wheelchairs.

5: Tilt Recline Manual Wheelchair

DAYS Tilt and Recline Adjustable Wheelchair

Tilt recline manual wheelchairs feature a special technology which allows you to change the user’s orientation without changing their hip to back angle.

They’re specially designed for: 

  • People with great mobility constraints 
  • Individuals who sit in their wheelchair for long periods of time
  • People with certain disorders that make it difficult to maintain good posture

A tilt recline wheelchair provides pressure relief by redistributing pressure from strained areas, such as the thighs or buttocks, to relaxed areas like the head or neck.

They’re fully adjustable and can recline at different angles. Some models can even be folded for easy transportation.

Related: 5 Helpful Tips for First Time Wheelchair Users

Find the Right Manual Wheelchair for You

With all the different manual wheelchairs available today, choosing the best one can be daunting. 

Luckily, Mobility Shop Direct offers hundreds of manual wheelchairs from reputable brands. 

Check out a few of our best sellers in the table below.

DAYS Swift Lite Attendant Propelled Wheelchair

DAYS Swift Lite Attendant Propelled Wheelchair


  • Compact and ultra lightweight frame
  • Weighs only 8 kg
  • Adjustable height


Learn More

DAYS Swift Self Propelled Wheelchair with Handbrakes

DAYS Swift Self Propelled Wheelchair with Handbrakes


  • Incredibly lightweight and compact
  • Perfect for frequent travellers
  • Can be easily folded and disassembled


Learn More

DAYS Swift Ultra Lightweight Compact Portable Wheelchair

DAYS Swift Ultra Lightweight Compact Portable Wheelchair


  • Super practical and manoeuvrable
  • Half-folding backrest
  • Removable leg rests


Learn More

We don’t think there’s a one size fits all when it comes to wheelchairs—it really depends on your needs and personal circumstances.

With our wide selection of manual wheelchairs, you’ll never run out of options. There’s something for everyone, whether it’s an ultra lightweight wheelchair for your frequent travels or a self propelled wheelchair for solo excursions. 

Place an order today and join thousands of satisfied customers across the nation. 

"Very good service and good pricechair was just what I needed and is of pretty good quality. I would recommend this seller and the product."
Ron C, Verified Buyer

“Lightweight Wheelchair Not using it as yet but impressed with the speed delivery on the order.
Stephanie E.|★★★★★

Related: 4 Must-Have Wheelchair Accessories To Enhance Quality Of Life

Most items can be delivered within 3 business days, which is super fast compared to other stores where delivery can take up to two weeks.

We also offer free shipping to residents within the Eastern Metro and Inner Regional Suburbs of Australia.

Feel free to contact us for further inquiries or if you need assistance with choosing a manual wheelchair. Our efficient customer service team is eager to help you.

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