Manual wheelchairs can be very basic or may be designed with highly advanced, specialized features. Manual wheelchairs are divided into four basic categories; folding wheelchairs, rigid, positioning (tilt wheelchairs) and sports wheelchairs.
Folding manual wheelchairs are a great choice for the more dependent user who does not need maximum efficiency in propulsion. This category includes ultra lightweight portable wheelchairs, called transport chairs for easy caregiver assistance. Foldable wheelchairs offer a high level of adjustability. They are usually constructed in steel or aluminum and can accept all types of seating systems, footrests and arms which are removable on most models. Portable wheelchairs are designed to fold making them effective for travel and storage. They are generally heavier than rigid wheel chairs due to folding cross-braces.
Rigid manual wheelchairs eliminate the flex associated with foldable wheelchairs and offer a higher level of performance. They are usually lightweight wheelchairs and can be made with steel, aluminum or even titanium. Rigid manual wheelchairs are the choice of the full-time independent user due to their high efficiency. There are a wide range of seating systems available and footrests can be fixed or removable. The frame itself is fixed which means that the wheels must be removed and the back folded down to allow for transport in a typical vehicle.
Commonly known as tilt wheelchairs, positioning manual wheelchairs address specific needs no other wheel chair style can do effectively. They are excellent for pressure reduction, easily allowing for frequent changes in position reducing the occurrence of pressure sores. Users with a kyphosis (forward curve in the upper spine) constantly face the floor when seated upright but can see better when tilted back in a positioning manual wheelchair. This also minimizes the need for many restraints and extra supports.
Similar to rigid manual wheelchairs, sports wheelchairs have features that make them more effective for playing sports. Specially added features such as optional wheel camber angles and offensive/defensive wings, to full-out racing machines, sports wheelchairs can be specialized for basketball, quad rugby, tennis, track, marathon and more Hand cycle attachments can be added to an existing chair or purchased as part of a stand-alone manual wheelchair.