Last year I got a new wheelchair, and I had so much fun choosing the color and picking out light up wheels! There were also many other decisions that had to be made regarding my wheelchair needs. Before making my final decisions, I did a lot of research and asked several friends about their personal wheelchairs and recommendations.
I ended up choosing a TiLite Aero R wheelchair for both looks and function. I have been very pleased with this new wheelchair, and I would like to share some more specifics about this chair with you. I know that many of you have various chronic illnesses and disabilities, and I hope that this information will be helpful for those of you who need to make a wheelchair purchase.
This is my TiLite wheelchair as it was originally put together. The seat had a two inch "dump." This means that the back of the seat was two inches lower than the front of the seat. This makes it easier to stay in the chair when the wheels hit a bump. I have found that bumps are common on concrete curb ramps. The ramp doesn't always start at street or parking lot level. Instead, it might start an inch or so above. I can't tell you how many times, in my old wheelchair, the wheels would hit the curb ramp and I would almost go flying out of my seat! The "dump" helps to prevent this. Unfortunately, the two inch dump was uncomfortable for me and caused pain. My wheelchair has since been adjusted to have only a one inch dump. This is more comfortable for me, and it still helps to keep me in the wheelchair if I hit a bump.
My original TiLite wheelchair had a lower back than what I have now. The back pictured above wasn't tall enough for me. It hit below my shoulder blades, and it didn't provide enough support. My body grows tired quickly, and I needed a taller back rest to lean against.
My wheelchair back used to sit straight up. The chair was set to the specifications that most users like, but the angle was not good for me. I need to have a back rest that leans back a little. I do not have the strength or energy necessary to sit straight up for more than about 10 minutes. My wheelchair back now angles back so that I can lean against it easily.
The wheelchair above is pictured with a standard foam cushion. That was the only type of cushion that my insurance would cover, so I gave it a try. It was comfortable for a short time, but not for very long. Because of an injury to my tailbone 11 years ago, I need a much higher quality cushion.
This is my TiLite wheelchair as I use it today. It has a one inch dump, a higher back rest, and a Low Profile Roho cushion. The back angle also leans back more than it did originally.
Here are the things that I especially like about my new wheelchair:
- A Roho cushion
- Rigid frame
- Pneumatic tires
- Side guards that are separate from the armrests
- Footrests that tuck in
- Adjustable tension backrest
- The color: Electric Plum
- The light up wheels!
A Roho Cushion
The Roho cushion is the only cushion I have found that keeps my tailbone from hurting because of sitting. It is expensive, but well worth the purchase if you need it. I have been using Low Profile Roho cushions for 8 years now.
The frame for my wheelchair is rigid, not folding. This makes for a more stable seat and a more comfortable ride.
Having air in the tires, instead of an airless insert, also makes for a more comfortable ride.
Side guards that are separate from the armrests
This is especially handy when I want to sit at a table. Armrests usually bump into the table and prevent the person in the wheelchair from scooting all the way up to the table. When the armrests and side guards are one piece, I either have to sit farther back from the table or go without both armrests and side guards. If it is rainy, snowy, or muddy, side guards are a must! I like the option of having one without the other.
Footrests that tuck in
This is a less common option in rigid wheelchairs, but I really like footrests that are removable and/or able to tuck in. This makes it easier for me to get in and out of the wheelchair. It also makes it easier to sit at a table. Tucking the footrests in allows me to scoot all the way up to the table without the footrests bumping into table legs.
Here is a side view of the footrests while they are tucked in.
Adjustable tension backrest
One of my favorite features of this wheelchair is this special back rest. There are three large straps at the top, and one large strap near the bottom of the back rest. I tighten the lower strap, and this gives much needed lumbar support. I keep the tops straps a bit looser.
This is the back rest after the cover has been placed over the tension straps.
I like the purple color of my wheelchair, but my very favorite thing is the light up wheels. They are such a fun feature! I regularly receive compliments about the light up wheels. As I had hoped, they have been an ice breaker, and they seem to make me and my wheelchair more approachable. They also make it totally fun for my children!
Before choosing this wheelchair I did a lot of research. Even after all of my research, there were still a few things I hadn't expected. Here are the things I wish I had known before purchasing this chair:
Pneumatic tires have to be pumped up every 2-4 weeks. My husband fills them up for me, so it isn't any extra work for me, but it is for him. Even with the maintenance needed for pneumatic tires, I would choose them again. The comfort of the ride is worth it, and Will doesn't mind taking care of it for me. However, if you live alone and would need to fill the wheels up yourself, it might not be worth it.
The tubular armrests are connected to the backrest, not to the seat of the wheelchair. This means that when the angle of my backrest is adjusted to recline slightly, the armrests angle upward. This not only looks funny, but it isn't particularly comfortable. Currently my wheelchair back isn't reclined very much, so the upward angle of the armrests is only slight. However, due to my health declining this year, I have had greater difficulty sitting up in my wheelchair. I need to have the back angle adjusted so that it leans back a little more. This will cause the armrests to angle upward even more.
The other problem with these armrests comes when I lean on them to adjust my position in my wheelchair. Because they are connected to the backrest, the backrest tilts forward about 1/2 an inch when I lean on them heavily to adjust my position.
I currently have swing away tubular armrests and separate side guards. Although I do like having side guards and arm rests as separate pieces, if I had it to do over, I would choose to have the side guard and armrests as one piece that connects to the seat frame of the wheelchair.
The handle grips have not stayed on securely. I was quite surprised to have this difficulty. This is my third wheelchair, and I have never had a problem with handle grips coming off on my previous two wheelchairs. On most days the loose handle grips are just annoying and only shift a little bit. However, if I am going down a hill, this small problem quickly becomes very dangerous. When being "pushed" down a hill, the person in the wheelchair isn't actually being pushed. Instead, the person standing behind the wheelchair is holding onto the handle grips to slow the wheelchair down and keep it from rolling too quickly down the hill.
Last fall we went to the zoo in Omaha, Nebraska over fall break. There is a long hill at the zoo that I rode down in my wheelchair. Will held on to the handles to keep me from zooming down and crashing. By the time we were back on flat ground, one handle grip had come halfway off, and the other handle grip had come nearly all the way off. It was then that we realized that these handle grips aren't securely fastened to the wheelchair. If they had come off while we were still on the hill, the wheelchair would have gotten away from Will and I would have had a bad crash on the asphalt, grass, and rocks at the bottom of the hill. Yikes.
The wheelchair handle grips are not something that is covered by warranty, unfortunately. A TiLite representative sent a bottle of contact cement to me to use to re-glue the handle grips to my wheelchair. In the future I will be extremely careful when being pushed down hills.
Overall I have been very pleased with this new TiLite wheelchair. It is high quality and comfortable. It is style, comfort, fun, and function all in one great wheelchair.
Many of you probably aren't interested in all of these wheelchair details, but I hope this is helpful to those of you who are considering purchasing a wheelchair. If you have any questions, please feel free to ask away in the comments or send me an email at RachelLundy@cranberryteatime.com.