Wheelchairs factsheet


A wheelchair is a chair with wheels used to help your child move around and participate in the community.

Some people may use wheelchairs to help them recover after an injury, illness, or surgery. Other people use a wheelchair in everyday life due to physical disability.

Wheelchairs usually have a seat that is supported by two large wheels at the back and two small wheels at the front, near the feet.

A wheelchair may also have:

  • armrests
  • footplates
  • brakes
  • cushions
  • handles at the back for pushing
  • rims around the large wheels to help spin the wheels to move forward - manual wheelchairs
  • a motor and control pad - electric wheelchairs.

Different types of wheelchairs have other features. Your child may have a specific type of wheelchair depending on their needs.

 About this equipment

Transferring in and out of the wheelchair

There are many ways to get in and out or transfer from a wheelchair.  Your child’s treatment team will show you the most appropriate way to help your child transfer in and out of the chair depending on their needs.

When supporting your child to transfer in and out of a wheelchair, remember to:

  • ensure the seat belt is fastened before moving
  • put the brakes on when not moving
  • lift the footplates when getting out.

Folding the wheelchair

Some wheelchairs can be folded up when not being used, or when they need to be stored in the back of a car.

To fold the wheelchair, you will need to:

  1. fold the footplates up
  2. hold the vinyl seat in the middle at the front and back and pull upwards until the chair is fully closed.

To unfold the wheelchair, you will need to:

  1. push down and outwards on the side edges of the vinyl seat, where the material is fixed to the metal frame
  2. use the palms of your hands to prevent your fingers from being caught between the seat and the frame.

Lifting the wheelchair

To lift the wheelchair, you will need to apply the brakes to prevent the wheels from spinning and hold onto the stable parts of the frame.

When you lift the wheelchair into a car, do it in two steps for safety:

  1. lift the wheelchair to the edge of the car boot
  2. slide the wheelchair into the car boot.

Remember to lift safely by:

  • bending your knees, not your back
  • bracing your abdominal muscles
  • keeping the wheelchair close to your body.

Lift the wheelchair with two people when possible.

Pushing the wheelchair up a kerb

To safely push a wheelchair up over a kerb:

  1. place your foot on the tipping lever and tip the wheelchair off its front wheels, onto its back wheels
  2. push the wheelchair forward, up onto the kerb and rest the front wheels down onto the kerb
  3. push steadily and firmly up the kerb to roll the large wheels up onto the pavement
  4. make sure the wheelchair is safely on a flat surface before starting to push again.

Pushing the wheelchair down a kerb

To safely push a wheelchair down over a kerb:

  1. reverse the wheelchair to the edge of the kerb, with the rear wheels positioned squarely to the kerb
  2. stand at the rear of the wheelchair and lower the rear wheels down the kerb slowly
  3. once the wheelchair is down over the kerb, slowly lower the front wheels, using the tipping lever.

 Care of the equipment

To take care of the wheelchair, follow these tips:

  • always store the wheelchair indoors, in a clean, dry place
  • wipe over the material with a damp cloth and mild detergent and dry well to avoid metal rusting
  • check the tyres, brakes, and material regularly for damage
  • check the tyre pressure regularly, making sure they are firm when pressed
  • a bike pump to pump up the tyres as needed.

When to seek help

You can find more information about using and taking care of your child’s wheelchair by checking the manufacturer's information booklet or contacting them directly.

Your child’s treatment team will also be able to give you more information.

Last updated Tuesday 23rd April 2024


This factsheet is provided for general information only. It does not constitute health advice and should not be used to diagnose or treat any health condition.

Please consult with your doctor or other health professional to make sure this information is right for you and/or your child.

The Sydney Children’s Hospitals Network does not accept responsibility for inaccuracies or omissions, the interpretation of the information, or for success or appropriateness of any treatment described in the factsheet.

© Sydney Children’s Hospitals Network 2024