Wheelchairs

There are several ways to get a wheelchair:

NHS Wheelchair Service

Your GP can refer you to your local Wheelchair Service (NHS)

Each Wheelchair Service has its own criteria. It will assess your needs, home environment and lifestyle as well as your abilities. Generally speaking they will not supply a powered wheelchair to people who:

  • can walk, even if only a little
  • can use a manual wheelchair independently
  • cannot use a powered wheelchair independently

They will only supply a powered wheelchair for both indoors and outdoors.

If the Wheelchair Service will not provide the equipment you want, it may offer you a voucher for the value of the equipment they specify. You can then top this voucher up with funds from another source to get the powered wheelchair you want.

Wheelchairs provided by the NHS remain its property. This means the NHS is responsible for maintenance and repairs. If you have bought a wheelchair using a voucher, it belongs to you, so you will have to make your own arrangements.

Local NHS wheelchair voucher schemes

Some NHS wheelchair services offer a voucher scheme so that you can have more choice. You receive a voucher to the value of the chair they would have offered after your assessment. You can then put the voucher towards the cost of a chair that you buy privately or in partnership with the NHS.

Ask your local NHS wheelchair service if they offer a voucher scheme.

NHS Continuing Care or your local authority

Some wheelchair users have had powered wheelchairs provided by NHS Continuing Care services or by their local authority Social Services.

Motability

You can use the Motability scheme if you get:

  • Higher Rate Mobility Component of the Disability Living Allowance
  • Enhanced Rate Mobility Component of PIP
  • Armed Forces Independence Payment
  • or the War Pensioners' Mobility Supplement

You pay the mobility component of your benefit to Motability, which will lease you a powered wheelchair.

Motability scheme

Access to Work

If you are in work or looking for work and you need a powered wheelchair to access that, Access to Work may provide a grant to help pay for it. Only around 5% have a powered wheelchair funded this way.

Access to Work

If you cannot get public funding for a powered wheelchair, you may have to pay for it yourself.

Charitable grants

Search for grants to fund a wheelchair

Each grant provider has its own rules about:

  • what they fund
  • the size of individual grants
  • eligibility including means testing
  • the assessment and supply process

Some will let you tell them what you need and get it yourself. Others will ask you to go to a specific supplier for an assessment.

You do not need a licence to use a powered wheelchair, but there are specific legal requirements, depending on the type:

  • class 2 wheelchairs can only be on the pavement and are limited to travelling at 4 miles per hour
  • class 3 wheelchairs can be on the pavement at up to 4 miles per hour or on the road at up to 8 miles per hour. They tend to be larger and need certain safety features, such as indicators and a horn.
Mobility scooter and powered wheelchair rules (GOV.UK)

Wheelchairs - sources of information

Independent Living Centres, mobility centres and community groups may offer advice about equipment and in some cases local wheelchair hire schemes.

If you need impartial advice on wheelchairs, you can call Disabled Living Foundation's helpline on 0300 999 0004 (Monday to Friday, 10 am to 4 pm).

Disability equipment exhibitions are a good way to look at lots of products on the same day. You will be able to try them out and talk to suppliers about what you need:

Wheelchair Driver

Get a portable ramp

Access to public spaces and buildings for disabled people still often leaves a lot to be desired. A folding wheelchair ramp, such as those available from the Ramp People or on Amazon, can help.

Consider buying a handbike

Biking is a great way of getting around and keeping fit, but is generally not possible for disabled people who do not have use of their legs or have only limited leg mobility. Hand bikes offer an alternative. You can even buy ‘clip-on’ versions, which attach to the front of your wheelchair when needed. Many models are suitable for on and off the road.

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