A pediatric wheelchair is a wheelchair specifically designed for pediatric use, with features intended to accommodate a smaller user. Pediatric wheelchair users can purchase or rent chairs for personal use, and such chairs are also stocked in hospitals and rehabilitation facilities for transporting pediatric patients with mobility issues. In the case of a chair being brought home from someone to use, a wheelchair fitting is strongly recommended to select an appropriate chair, adjust it for comfort, and provide some information and advice on how to use it.
Several issues must be considered in the design of a pediatric wheelchair. A smaller user needs a generally smaller chair, and the armrests and footrests must be adjustable to accommodate patients with smaller, shorter arms and legs who are also still growing and will need a new chair fitting within weeks or months. If a child is put in an adult chair, the child may have to contort to fit, and could risk injuries caused by forcing the arms and legs into positions that are not neutral. The seat cushion and padding on the back may also need to be adjusted.
For a manual chair, light weight is critical, so the patient can push the chair comfortably. The handles on the back of the chair also need to be properly adjusted so that someone pushing the chair will not have to bend or hold an awkward pose to push the chair. Since adults often push children in chairs, this may require extensions to put the handles in a comfortable position for an adult user. With powerchairs, a pediatric wheelchair needs controls a child can handle and adjust as needed.
Some pediatric wheelchairs are colorful and may have decorations in a goal to make them more appealing to children. Others are plain, although ornaments like stickers and decals can be added by the user. The pediatric wheelchair may also have fittings like racks and saddlebags to carry supplies, ranging from a respirator for a child who cannot breathe independently to schoolbooks.
As with adult chairs, the balance of the chair must be carefully centered so the chair stays stable with the weight of the user. Specialty products like sport wheelchairs for children are also available. These chairs may have a lower center of gravity, lighter frames, or bigger tires to support the user during athletic events like wheelchair rugby. Compact travel chairs for patients who want a less valuable chair to take on trips can be purchased as well, allowing people to leave bulky, expensive equipment at home.