There are several ways to get a wheelchair:
NHS Wheelchair Service
Your GP can refer you to your local Wheelchair Service. It will assess your needs, taking into account your home environment and lifestyle as well as your abilities.
Each Wheelchair Service has its own criteria, but generally speaking 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
- would, for any reason, not use a powered wheelchair either in their home or outdoors (that is 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 of wheelchair. You receive a voucher to the value of the chair you would have been offered after your assessment (which is determined locally in each individual case). You can then put the voucher towards the cost of a chair that you buy privately or in partnership with the NHS.
Enquire at your local NHS wheelchair service to see 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).
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.
You can find out more about the scheme and check your eligibility on the official Motability website.
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. (Please note, only around 5% of users have had a powered wheelchair funded by Access to Work.)
If you cannot get public funding for a powered wheelchair, you may have to pay for it yourself.
It’s worth checking our grants search for organisations that may fund wheelchairs. Each organisation 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).
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:
Other resources include:
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. Fortunately there is an alternative that may suit – hand bikes, which are powered and steered by hand-power alone. You can even buy ‘clip-on’ versions which easily attach to the front of your wheelchair when needed, and many models are suitable for both on and off-road riding. You can find a useful guide to handbikes at Ethos Disability.