If you are a new wheelchair user, you may not have heard the word “camber” before. Or maybe you’ve heard it, but you still don’t know what it means. The article will give you the low-down on what wheelchair camber actually is and why it might be beneficial to you.
What is wheelchair camber and how does it influence chair use?
Camber is the measurement of the angle of a set of wheels in relation to the surface of the ground. If a wheel is completely straight up and down, and it is completely perpendicular to the ground, then the camber angle measurement is zero. If the wheel angles in toward the wheelchair at the top, it creates what is considered a negative measurement of camber. If the wheels were to angle away from the wheelchair, then that would create a positive camber measurement.
One of the main reasons an individual may seek to increase the camber on their wheelchair is to make turning their chair easier. This is particularly beneficial when playing sports, rather than just with every-day activities. We’ll touch on more positive impacts of increasing camber in the section where we explore the benefits of doing so.
Most wheelchairs do not come with the option to adjust the camber once it is made. You usually have to order the chair with the degree of camber that you want. During construction, camber is adjusted by inserting a bar that changes the angle of the wheels or adjusts the axle plate.
What benefits are there to increasing wheelchair camber?
- The more camber a wheelchair is given, the wider it becomes across the bottom. This added width provides more lateral stability. It also redirects force, which makes a softer, less bumpy ride. Greater wheelchair camber also allows the wheelchair to make quicker turns.
- There are also benefits for your body, too. Angling the wheels put the push rims in a better position for grasping and pushing. You also use a more natural body motion when pushing cambered wheels. The angle allows you to push down and out.
- The plane of the wheelchair in a cambered chair is closer to your shoulders. This puts less strain on the shoulders when propelling the chair. And your fingers and hands are protected from bumps and scrapes when you maneuver through tight spaces with cambered wheels. Because they are wider, the bottoms of your wheels will always hit an obstacle first.
- Another thing that some people may see as a benefit is that cambered wheels make a chair look sportier. If you are an athletic individual, that may be a look that you like.
To summarise the benefits, the two main positives to take away from increasing your wheelchairs camber is as follows:
- Increased camber makes the wheelchair easier to turn and mannouver.
- The greater the camber the more stable the wheelchair is laterally.
What disadvantages are there to increasing wheelchair camber?
Cambered wheels do have some disadvantages and can be outlined as follows:
- More space required: Cambered wheels are wider. This may make it more difficult to fit through doorways, down aisles, or to maneuver around furniture. When you are in a restaurant, it can be difficult for chairs with cambered wheels to get around without bumping into other tables, chairs, and guests.
- Greater cost: Cambered chairs often cost more. Due to their sporty nature, a cambered chair may also have had other things done to it to improve durability or to make it lightweight. These improvements are positive, but they can incur extra expenses.
- Tighter wheelchair: If the camber of the chair is excessive, then the top of the wheels may rub against the wheelchair side panels, or against the wheelchair user. That can cause anything from minor dirt stains on clothing to skin irritation.
- Cost of upkeep: Cambered tyres need special treads to avoid wearing down unevenly. Traditional tyre treads are centered in the middle of the tyre. When they are cambered, they wear down too quickly on the sides. To solve this problem, you will have to buy tires that have had the tread placed on the inside edge. These tyres are specially made for cambered wheels.
Now you know what camber is, you can decide if a cambered wheelchair fits your lifestyle!