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A wheelchair is a chair with wheels, designed to be a replacement for walking. The device comes in variations where it is propelled by motors or by the seated occupant turning the rear wheels by hand. Often there are handles behind the seat for someone else to do the pushing. Wheelchairs are used by people for whom walking is difficult or impossible due to illness (physiological or physical), injury, or disability. People with both sitting and walking disability often need to use a wheelbench.



The earliest record of wheelchairs dates back to the 6th century, as an inscription found on a stone slate in China. Later dates relate to Europeans using this technology during the German Renaissance. Harry Jennings and his disabled friend Herbert Everest, both mechanical engineers, invented the first lightweight, steel, collapsible wheelchair[1] in 1933. Mr Everest had broken his back in a mining accident. The two saw the business potential of the invention and went on to become the first mass-manufacturers of wheelchairs: Everest and Jennings. Their "x-brace" design is still in common use, albeit with updated materials and other improvements.


A basic manual wheelchair incorporates a seat, foot rests, handles at the back and four wheels: two castor wheels at the front and two large wheels at the back.

Other varieties of wheelchair are often variations on this basic design, but can be highly customised for the user's needs. Such customisations may encompass the seat dimensions, height, seat angle (also called seat dump or squeeze), footrests, leg rests, front caster outriggers, adjustable backrests and controls.

Everyday manual wheelchairs come in two major designs -- folding or rigid. The rigid chairs, which are increasingly preferred by active users, have permanently welded joints and many fewer moving parts. This reduces the energy required to push the chair by eliminating many points where the chair would flex as it moves. Welding the joints also reduces the overall weight of the chair. Rigid chairs typically feature instant-release rear wheels and backrests that fold down flat, allowing the user to dismantle the chair quickly for storage in a car.

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