Approximately 3.6 million people in the United States use wheelchairs according to the Census Bureau. That’s over 1 percent of the population. Two million Americans past age 65 use wheelchairs regularly.
Among the conditions that lead to wheelchair use are
- spinal cord injuries;
- frailty syndromes;
- amputated legs;
- cerebral palsy;
- multiple sclerosis; and
- muscular dystrophy.
Other disorders that may affect movement - arthritis and osteoporosis, for example - can also result in wheelchair dependency.
Chairdex is a website about wheelchairs. We describe the types of chairs, the history of wheelchairs, and common accessories. There are many exciting developments in wheelchair design going on now. Wheelchair athletes have formed a thriving community and we also present resources for people who use wheelchairs. Further, we discuss the effect of the Americans with Disabilities Act on design of facilities to accommodate wheelchairs.
People who use wheelchairs face challenges not only in finding a suitable chair, but also in navigating their chairs through the built environment. Many buildings are not accessible, making it difficult or impossible to get into and around in if you are in a wheelchair. Even buildings that are advertised as accessible may not actually be so for a wheelchair user. And traveling outdoors is hard during inclement weather: ice, snow, and slush make wheelchair use exhausting and can leave the user wet and cold. Driving is feasible for some, but it poses challenges.
Increased awareness about disabilities along with architectural and technological changes can lessen obstacles and make it easier for wheelchair users to go about their daily lives.