Wheelchair technology

21 October 2020

Read on for more information on mobility wheelchairs, the different types available, the support schemes that are in place and how Shoosmiths can help you along the way.

What are the different types of wheelchair for spinal cord injuries?

The choice of wheelchair (or more accurately wheelchairs, as you may need more than one for different activities) is a very personal matter for someone who has a spinal cord injury.

There are several options and styles that the user will want to consider, such as:

  • Manual wheelchairs
  • Power wheelchairs
  • Stand-up wheelchairs and frames
  • Add-on power drives
  • Sports and leisure wheelchairs

Manual wheelchairs

There are multiple styles of manual wheelchairs for spinal cord injury patients. Options for the user to consider will be:

  • Aluminium or titanium
  • Rigid or folding
  • Adaptability and durability
  • Stand-up
  • Tilt and recline / comfort for those who require upper-body and head support
  • Travel wheelchairs that are lighter and easily collapsible

Power wheelchairs

There are a wide variety of power wheelchairs available to provide a full range of access and mobility for the user. Options to consider include:

  • Indoor wheelchairs that are more compact, lighter in weight and manoeuvrable
  • Outdoor wheelchairs with more powerful drive units to provide greater range and all-terrain drive
  • Stand-up powered wheelchairs to use both on and off-road

Stand-up wheelchairs and frames

These kinds of mobility wheelchairs allow the user to stand upright, which can improve circulation and bowel function, as well as providing a number of physiological benefits including minimising fatigue.

Add-on power drives

Power drives can be added to a manual chair to maximise the independence of the user. The power drive can be easily fitted to the wheelchair and charged when not in use.

Sports and leisure wheelchairs

There are multiple specialist products designed for sports and active users to include, such as:

  • Handbikes to offer greater flexibility
  • Freewheel all-terrain wheelchair add-ons
  • Beach wheelchairs with innovative balloon wheels to allow users to enter the sea

It may be that one of these types of wheelchairs stands out as particularly suited to you and your needs. Or you may find that more than one kind is needed in order to fit in with your lifestyle. 

Can you get a mobility wheelchair on the NHS?

Yes, you are able to get a wheelchair on the NHS. To do so, you’ll need to follow these steps:

  • Speak to your GP, a physiotherapist or a member of hospital staff. They’ll refer you to your local wheelchair service.
  • The wheelchair service will assess whether you need a wheelchair and if you do, which type you need.
  • You may be eligible to receive a voucher which can contribute towards the cost of a different type of wheelchair.

The future of spinal cord injury wheelchairs?

With so many regular users across the UK and the rest of the world, it’s important that wheelchair technology continues to advance, in order to provide the greatest possible quality of life to those who rely on them.

And developments are being made all the time. In 2017, a group of Swiss inventors were named winners of the transport category at the Beazley Designs of the Year. Their product, Scewo, was a mobility device that enables the user to climb stairs thanks to a retractable set of rubber tracks. The Scewo also has an extra set of wheels at the back, which enables the user to raise their sitting level, as well as two larger wheels that can cope with kerbs or other obstacles.

“We believe the wheelchair industry has slept for too long and we can take advantage of this situation. We want to change the way people think of wheelchairs,” said Thomas Gemperle, one of the Scewo’s designers.

What other help is available for wheelchair users?

There are a number of schemes and initiatives in place for wheelchair users of all kinds. For example:

  • the UK government offers Disabled Facilities Grants, which you can receive if you have been assessed by your local council as needing care and support services. These grants can be used if you need to make any changes to your home, for example to install ramps, stairlifts or downstairs bathroom facilities.
  • the Motability Scheme, which allows anyone who receives a higher-rate mobility allowance (usually via the Disability Living Allowance or Personal Independence Payment) to use that money to lease a wheelchair, scooter or even cars that fit wheelchairs.
  • the National Accessible Scheme has been set up by VisitEngland. The initiative was launched as a way to improve and promote the accessibility of visitor accommodation and in turn encourage further trade for such businesses.

How can Shoosmiths help?

A wheelchair plays a vital role in helping those who have suffered a spinal cord injury maintain a sense of freedom and independence. Dealing with such an injury can be extremely difficult, both for you and your family, and it’s important that you have all the support you need.

If you feel the injury was caused by somebody else – for example in an accident on the road or an accident at work – you could be entitled to compensation, and that’s where Shoosmiths’ spinal cord injury solicitors may be able to help.

We know that no amount of money can undo the past, but by making a claim you could receive compensation to help you in the present and future to pay for just some of the things you may neeed, such as:

  • a mobility wheelchair
  • any adaptations to the home
  • changes to your transport, such as finding cars that fit wheelchairs.

Compensation may also help if you’ve been forced to miss work due your injuries, or you can no longer continue in your previous role.

Our support extends beyond the financial, however. We have a number of strong partnerships with organisations such as Back Up and the Spinal Injuries Association, so we can put you in touch with experts who can offer invaluable support, advice and guidance when it comes to dealing with your injury and adapting to the use of a wheelchair.

For more information or to chat to a member of our friendly team in full confidence, please feel free to get in touch by messaging us or calling us.



This information is for educational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. It is recommended that specific professional advice is sought before acting on any of the information given. © Shoosmiths LLP 2024

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Who we work with

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