Everything You need to Know as New Wheelchair Users

As you enter a new phase of your life as new wheelchair users, it’s important to understand the ins and outs of this new journey. Becoming wheelchair-bound doesn’t mean you have to lose your independence or empowerment. While there may be some adjustments and adaptations needed to settle into your new life, with the right knowledge and equipment, you can cultivate a new sense of self.

This article is designed to walk you through the process of discovering which wheelchair is right for your lifestyle, how to properly use a wheelchair, daily living tips, and additional information to empower you in this next phase of your life when being new wheelchair users.

new wheelchair users

What Type of Wheelchair Is Right For New Wheelchair Users?

Manual Wheelchair

How often will you be required to use your wheelchair? Is your wheelchair being covered by insurance? Being new wheelchair users, these are questions that are important to ask when deciding on your first chair. If you only need a wheelchair when you go to the store or when you’re traveling, a manual chair may be the best choice. Manual wheelchairs are most affordable, and great for anyone who needs a temporary or periodic option. Of course, if your circumstances require you to use your wheelchair all day and you have the means to afford a more convenient option, you may want to go with a powered device.

Power Wheelchair

A powered wheelchair is more geared towards individuals who are otherwise unable to walk without a wheelchair. These are designed for people living with physical conditions that require constant assistance. While powered wheelchairs have a higher cost than manual, they are truly necessary for those who require greater assistance and can make a world of difference in one’s quality of life.

Folding Wheelchair vs. Rigid Wheelchair

A folding wheelchair is just as it seems, a wheelchair that folds. The frame of these chairs allows the device to compact itself into an easier-to-transport product. A rigid wheelchair does not fold or decrease in size. Folding chairs are great if you don’t need to use them every day or while traveling.

Components of a Wheelchair

Another factor when deciding on a wheelchair is its components. These components include the frame, which is the overall structure of the chair. You want a frame that’s strong and durable. Armrests and footrests are also essential as they help keep you comfortable, especially after sitting for a while. The seat of a chair makes a world of difference in comfortability as well. Different chairs have varying wheels as well, depending on the frame, size, and whether it’s powered or manual.

Related: How to Choose an Electric Wheelchair as new wheelchair users with limited mobility.

Make Sure Your Wheelchair Is Tailored to New Wheelchair Users

Just like a bicycle, it’s important to get a wheelchair that fits your body type and size adequately. Your wheelchair needs to fit your body, otherwise, it can cause discomfort due to a lack of support and structure. Support is necessary to remain comfortable and healthy while using these devices.

To find the best wheelchair for you, you want to measure your hips, legs, waist, chest, and back. These dimensions will help you compare to the dimensions of wheelchairs, which is especially helpful if purchasing online. If you decide to purchase a wheelchair in person, make sure you bring these measurements along with you. A worker may be able to help you measure/fit you into a chair, but it’s best to be prepared.

Basic Mobility Techniques


  • Forward Movement: Practice pushing the wheels with an even, smooth motion to maintain a straight line.
  • Backward Movement: Pull the wheels towards you, being cautious of obstacles behind.
  • Turning: Apply more force to one wheel to pivot around corners smoothly.
  • Obstacles: Learn to approach obstacles at the right angle and use wheelies to navigate over small bumps or thresholds safely.

Wheelchair Transfers

  • To/From Bed: Ensure the wheelchair is locked and parallel to the bed. Use transfer boards if necessary to bridge the gap.
  • To/From Car: Practice using portable ramps and the best techniques for transferring into various car models.
  • To/From Toilet: Consider using a raised toilet seat and grab bars for safer transfers.

Wheelchair Maintenance

  • Regular Checks: Inspect wheels, brakes, and cushions for wear and tear.
  • Cleaning: Use appropriate cleaners for the wheelchair material and check the manufacturer’s instructions for specific parts like cushions.
  • Professional Services: Know when to contact a professional for repairs, especially for power wheelchairs, to ensure safety and functionality.

Wheelchair Accessibility and Disability Advocacy

Public spaces have designated tools to assist disabled people and new wheelchair users. It’s always best to put in some time to research in advance to see what accommodations a business, facility, or event has. You can find this information directly on their website.

As new wheelchair users, always look for a handicapped parking spot when parking in a public space. These are often close to the entrance of the building and have wheelchair-accessible entrances and exits.

If you use a manual wheelchair, many public shopping centers will have motorized carts for those in need of use, which can make your shopping experience a bit easier as well. If you’re ever unsure of where to go or how to navigate an area, reach out to a store representative.

Daily Living Tips

Home Amenities

  • Ramps
  • Widened Doorways
  • Accessible Bathroom & Kitchen
  • Strategic Furniture Placement
  • Appropriate Floor Surfaces & Finished


  • Public Transportation
  • Taxi Services
  • Carpooling
  • Accessible Vehicles w/ Lifts

Work / School

  • Request Accommodations under the ADA
  • Use technology to have greater access to education or work

Related: Top 13 Wheelchair Travel Blogs

Maintaining Physical and Mental Well-Being

Just because you’re in a wheelchair doesn’t mean you have to become out of shape or give up your favorite activities. There are sports leagues for people with disabilities, such as basketball or racing. There are also adaptive fitness classes, like wheelchair yoga and pilates. These are options for anyone looking to stay in shape, and great to keep your body moving with no longer being able to be as mobile as you once were. These classes and teams are also a great way to form a community!

Part of staying active is remaining healthy. It’s important to change positions and increase movement in your chair to prevent sore spots. Skincare routines are also helpful in combating any issues you may have from sitting for too long.

For mental wellness, joining a support, community, or scheduling a counseling appointment is a great way to mentally navigate this new chapter. Better Help is a counseling platform that you can do from the comfort of your home, helping you get the help you need.

Wheelchair Financial Considerations for New Wheelchair Users

It’s important to weigh out your options when determining how to finance your wheelchair. Depending on your age, conditions, and insurance coverage, there are different ways to go about having some, if not all, of the costs taken care of for you.

Whether you have Medicaid, medicare, or private health insurance, check in with an insurance benefits member to determine your coverage. Depending on your insurance there may be certain requirements or specific wheelchair types that are covered by your plan, but only your insurance company will be able to fully walk you through that. If you don’t have Medicare, Medicaid, or private insurance, there are still options.

Here are a few websites that have available information for new wheelchair users

Before You Buy

As new wheelchair users, before you go out and purchase or have insurance cover you for a wheelchair, just like a car, you want to make sure you’re prepared for unforeseen costs. Check with your insurance or coverage provider to see if they cover additional costs for repairs outside of warranty and maintenance. This is essential because wheelchairs that are higher cost will cost more for maintenance as well. Another factor to consider is what additional accessories you’ll need for your chair. Maybe a cushion, neck pillow, safety light, attachable bag, etc. You may be able to have some of these items covered by insurance as well.

Connecting With Other New Wheelchair Users

You’re not alone in this new chapter of your life. There are thousands of people who’ve been where you are right now, ready to offer you support, guidance, and friendship. If you don’t have anyone in your life who’s been wheelchair-bound, you may not have anyone to help answer any questions you have. That’s why joining a support group or an online forum can be extremely beneficial.

Ask your doctor or counselor about wheelchair and disability support groups in your area. They can help point you in the right direction and prepare you for the meeting. These groups are full of people who understand what you’re going through, and showing up and talking about your experience is a great way to feel heard, understood, and be guided towards making the most out of this new chapter.

If you don’t feel comfortable meeting in person or don’t have any local support groups, online forums, and social media a great way to connect with other new wheelchair users.

Check out forum resources below for some knowledge about new wheelchair users:

  • Wheelchair Network Forum
  • Accessible Go Forum
  • Bespoken Forum
  • Disability Community Resource Center

Facebook, youtube, Instagram, TikTok, Reddit, and twitter are also great options for finding online resources and communities to connect with. Search for your specific disability or reasoning for needing to be wheelchair bound, or for a general wheelchair support group which is friendly for new wheelchair users. You’re sure to find a community of others who can be there for you, answer real-life questions, and help you not feel so alone. Being a part of a community or support group helps you stay positive, motivated, and grounded as you make this transition.

Accessing Disability Services

Every new wheelchair users’ journey and needs are different. Some people will only be in a wheelchair for a short period of time while they recover from a condition or accident. Others’ journey is lifelong, and they must learn how to completely alter their life to support operating from a wheelchair full time. Because of this, there are different resources and services that may or may not apply to you. But, these resources are specifically designed to assist everyone start building themselves back up and strengthening their quality of life.

Disability Services

Disability Organizations
Groups or associations that provide support, advocacy, and resources to people with disabilities, focusing on rights, accessibility, and community engagement.
Independent LivingServices and support that enable people with disabilities to live independently in their communities, including accessible housing, personal care assistance, and adaptive technologies.
Vocational RehabilitationA program designed to help individuals with disabilities achieve employment and independence through career counseling, job training, and workplace accommodations.

Related: Wheelchair Safety Checklist for Seniors

Disability & Wheelchair Resources


  • Life on Wheels
  • Miracle Wheels
  • Seating & Wheeled Mobility
  • Spinal Network: The Total Wheelchair Resource Book


Online Courses

  • Wheelchair Network
  • Wheelchair Skills Program
  • United Spinal Association
  • Wheelchair Seating and Positioning


If you’ve recently been diagnosed with a disease or condition that requires you to use a wheelchair, this guide strives to help make the transition comfortable and easy. Know that you’re not alone during this time, whether it’s with finding funding for your chair, learning how to care for your wheelchair, or connecting with other wheelchair users, there are plenty of resources out there to help keep you on track and have peace of mind.

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