mobile Independence Mobility NHS




When choosing a manual wheelchair, whether it is for yourself, a client, or a family member, it is important to understand the different options that are available to ensure a perfect fit – both in terms of comfort and lifestyle.

Here, we look at the different types of manual wheelchair available and highlight their features and benefits.


Rigid Manual Wheelchairs 


A rigid manual wheelchair is a wheelchair with a one-piece frame. It is fixed in position and does not have any folding mechanisms. They are most popular amongst active users due to their performance characteristics.  

The main advantages of a rigid frame wheelchair are… 

  • They are lighter weight than folding wheelchairs - typically made from aluminium, titanium, or carbon fibre. 
  • Their fixed frame provides a higher degree of stability and durability. 
  • They are easier to self-propel, manoeuvre, and control. 
  • They can be customised to individual requirements with adjustable components, seat cushions, and positioning accessories. 
  • They can be collapsed and folded as well as, or actually better than, a folding wheelchair. By folding down the backrest and removing the wheels, you are left with a compact frame that can be easily stowed on the passenger or rear seat. 


Folding Manual Wheelchairs 


In contrast to rigid manual wheelchairs, folding manual wheelchairs incorporate a cross brace frame which allows them to be collapsed and reduced in size. They are ideal for users who frequently transport their chairs in a vehicle, or for those who regularly travel. 

The key features and benefits of a folding manual wheelchair are… 

  • Hinged mechanisms enable them to be reduced to a compact size for easier storage and transportation. 
  • They are flexible, with adjustable features such as seat width, seat depth, seat height, and so on. 
  • They can have elevated or swing-away leg rests which can be removed for transporting. 
  • Although not quite as lightweight as their rigid counterparts, folding wheelchairs are constructed from lightweight materials such as aluminium and steel. 


Passive Wheelchairs 


There are two types of passive manual wheelchairstandard transit wheelchairs and tilt-in-space models

Standard transit wheelchairs are for people with basic mobility needs and simply require assistance with moving from one place to another. They are pushed by an attendant or a carer and are intended to be used for short amounts of time due to their limited functionality. Transit models are usually lightweight and easy to fold, so are ideal for taking on public transport and for places where space may be limited. 

Tilt-in-space models, on the other hand, are designed for people with more complex needs and who require a greater degree of postural support throughout the full day. The tilt and recline mechanism offers a means of weight-shifting to help users avoid pressure injuries. 

Tilt-in-space wheelchairs can also be enhanced with other postural devices, such as head rests and lateral supports, to ensure superior comfort and security. 


Sport Wheelchairs 


Last but not least are sport wheelchairs. These are specialist wheelchairs designed for athletic activities and competitive sports. They are high specification models, engineered to be lightweight, agile, and cater for the specific demands of a particular sport. 

A wide range of specialist sports wheelchairs are available including football wheelchairs, tennis wheelchairs, and basketball wheelchairs. 

A range of high-performance hand-propelled racing wheelchairs are also available for high-speed track events. 


The above is a brief introduction to the different types of manual wheelchair available. If you would like to know more or for a discussion of your, a client’s, or family member’s needs, please get in touch. You can contact our team by calling 0113 262 8000 or by emailing

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Independence Mobility
Independence House
6 Buslingthorpe Green
Telephone: 0113 2628000
Fax: 0113 2628001


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