Many people need wheelchairs to live their lives as freely as possible. With one of these mobility vehicles, you can get around on your own or with the help of others. Of course, you will find many different wheelchair variations on the market. Some are designed for specific people, while others are meant for a specific purpose. Pool wheelchairs fall into the second category, offering some additional practical benefits to traditional wheelchairs. They let the user access places they previously wouldn't have been able to reach, further increasing your independence.
Naturally, pool wheelchairs might be new to you. You've never heard about them, so you have no way of knowing where to begin your search. We've compiled a guide that will explain everything you could hope to learn about a pool wheelchair. Make your way through each section, and you'll soon find the best pool wheelchairs money can buy.
Table of Contents
What is a pool wheelchair?
These wheelchairs can be referred to in a few different ways. They're often called water wheelchairs, waterproof wheelchairs, or even an aquatic wheelchair. All of these terms relate to the same product, so don't worry if you see them bandied about.
Essentially, swimming pool wheelchairs are specially designed access-chairs that let you get into a pool. They've been specifically created for use around water, meaning they can be completely submerged without encountering any problems. You will only need a water wheelchair in situations where you want to enjoy all the delights water has to offer. We've already mentioned swimming pools, but some pool wheelchairs can also be used at the beach. Either way, the whole concept is to stop your disability from letting you enjoy the water!
How do pool wheelchairs differ from regular wheelchairs?
First and foremost, the primary difference lies in the function and purpose of each product. A regular wheelchair is made to offer support for people that can't walk. Regardless of what's caused your mobility issue, a wheelchair lets you move around and go about your daily life. It can be used indoors, outside, and in lots of different public settings. For instance, you can take your regular wheelchair when going to the shop, visiting the doctor, or eating out at a restaurant.
By comparison - as mentioned above - pool wheelchairs have a very refined purpose. You won't use these wheelchairs around the home or when you're going out for a walk with friends. They are specifically used in swimming pools and other public areas with pools. In fact, most public pools will ban the use of regular wheelchairs as they present safety hazards for the user and anyone else close by. This is simply because they're not designed to work around lots of water, and the tires are usually made with a black rubber that stains the surfaces.
So, we have functional differences, but that's not where the comparisons end. Pool wheelchairs differ from regular wheelchairs in how they are made - and the materials they're made out of. Check the chart below for more info:
Designed with specific materials that are non-corrosive.
Designed with materials that aren’t non-corrosive but only need to stand up to mild wetness from bad weather.
Built to be strong, durable, and to last after constant use in harsh settings.
Built to last, but aren’t designed to be used in pool areas of other harsh environments.
Usually equipped with mesh seating to allow quicker drying between uses.
Typically designed with comfortable seats and cushions.
Anti-tip features that prevent accidents when moving in and out of pools.
Not equipped with anti-tip features.
Additional safety restraints to stop users from falling out when moving into the pool.
No need for additional safety features.
Wider wheels to provide more support when underwater.
Slimmer wheels for ease-of-use.
The wheels are designed to not stain pool surfaces.
Black tires will leave skid stains on pool surfaces and the surfaces near a pool
To summarize, pool wheelchairs are made out of different materials to regular wheelchairs. Some are made using a special type of stainless-steel, but the majority are constructed out of PVC. By using non-corrosive materials, it prevents issues where constant exposure to water can cause rust. Regular wheelchairs don’t have to worry about this problem as they typically only encounter water when it rains. Therefore, if you put a regular wheelchair in a pool, it would likely rust after a few sessions.
The whole construction of pool wheelchairs is designed with the environment in mind. No, we’re not talking about the ecosystem - we’re talking about pool or beach environments. The wheels are wider than usual, and the entire framework is made to be a lot sturdier than a regular wheelchair. This lets the pool glide along uneven surfaces and remain nice and stable when on the pool floor. They are also made with anti-tip features that prevent the user from falling into the pool when the chair is loaded onto a pool lift and submerged. Other safety features are also used to further prevent any accidents.
While a water wheelchair and a standard wheelchair may seem like similar products, they are completely different. You can’t use a regular wheelchair in a pool environment, so you need to get one that’s made for aquatic use.
Who needs a pool wheelchair?
Pool wheelchairs are available for anyone with a mobility issue. If you need a wheelchair to get around, you will benefit from a pool wheelchair in specific settings.
However, we should mention that a lot of facilities offer pool wheelchairs for people that might need them. This includes pools, hotels, health spas, and so on. If you are visiting one of these as a one-off, it makes sense to accept the chair they offer, rather than get one for yourself.
Nevertheless, a pool wheelchair can be beneficial for many people. Mainly, it's useful if you regularly go to swimming pools or health spas. In these instances, it's far more convenient to have your own pool wheelchair than to rely on one by the facility. Of course, if your local swimming pool can't provide a special wheelchair, then you need a water wheelchair as well. You can also find some pool wheelchairs that accommodate bariatric individuals. In most cases, public facilities that provide pool wheelchairs won't be able to accommodate people above a certain weight. So, if you're in the bariatric bracket, you need a special pool wheelchair.
Effectively, pool wheelchairs are for people who want to visit pools and enjoy everything a swimming pool offers. If this isn't something you do regularly, it might not be worth buying one.
What are the benefits of pool wheelchairs?
How will a pool wheelchair benefit your life? For one, it opens up your world to so many new possibilities. Without an aquatic wheelchair, you're unable to visit public swimming pools or health spa facilities. Essentially, you miss out on lots of nice things because of a disability you have no control over. It's not fair, and it can actually lead to some pretty distressing side effects.
According to a study in 2016, people living with physical disabilities are up to three times more likely to suffer from depression than the general population. It's believed this link is down to the lack of independence you have when you can't get around as you used to. As stated above, you miss out on lots of opportunities in life. So, a pool wheelchair can open the door to these opportunities. It gets you out of the house and lets you visit pools and enjoy the water without worrying about your safety. You can add this to your weekly routine and ensure that you get out of the house more often.
Secondly, and we just touched upon it in the previous paragraph, pool wheelchairs offer improved safety. You can visit a pool without worrying about if your chair will topple over or if you might slip into the pool. Most people with a mobility disability will testify that you spend a lot of your days feeling anxious. Especially when your wheelchair is pushed into different environments that it might not be used to. With pool wheelchairs, this anxiety is washed away as you know it is designed to keep you safe and secure.
In summary, the benefits of pool wheelchairs are:
- Lets you access swimming pools once more
- Helps you retain a sense of independence
- Keeps you safe while in slippery and wet environments
Does Medicare cover pool wheelchairs?
As with all wheelchairs, you want to know if water wheelchairs are covered by Medicare. This means that your Medicare provider will pay a percentage of the costs of the product. Unfortunately, it's not clear as to whether or not these specific wheelchairs fall under the coverage bracket.
Generally, Medicare has a strange approach to wheelchairs and other heavy-duty medical equipment. It will provide coverage if certain criteria are met - these criteria relate to you and the equipment. From your perspective, you need to prove that the wheelchair is a medical necessity. The easiest way to do this is by having your doctor provide a note saying that you need it for everyday life. Even with this evidence, a wheelchair will only be covered if:
- It is durable
- It will last at least three years
- It serves a medical purpose
- It's suitable for use in the home
Standard wheelchairs will tick all of these boxes, but what about waterproof ones? It is often hard to argue that your pool wheelchair is a necessity, as it will only be used for a specific scenario. Therefore, it's best to assume that Medicare will not cover the costs of your pool wheelchair.
What if I can't afford the cost of a wheelchair?
If Medicare doesn't cover your pool wheelchair, there's no need to worry. Other finance options are available across our website for most of our products. We give you a choice between paying the full price in one go or opting for a monthly payment plan. This lets you split the costs up into manageable payments that come out of your account every month. These options come with no interest rates when you make your payments on time. So, you don't pay more for the product; you just pay it off in a more convenient manner.
What to look for when buying a pool wheelchair
In this section, we'll walk you through some of the key features and factors of pool wheelchairs. In essence, this is the part of our guide to pay attention to if you want to know how to differentiate the best pool wheelchairs from the rest.
These are the main features to concern yourself with:
- The wheelchair material
- How easy the wheelchair is to use
- Safety features included
- The wheelchair materials
Think back to our earlier chart on the differences between waterproof wheelchairs and standard ones. A huge sticking point is the choice of materials used in pool wheelchairs. As a general rule of thumb, never buy an aquatic wheelchair that's not made from either stainless steel or PVC. Any other materials might be corrosive and will be unable to stand up to constant water usage.
This is a very easy way to separate cheap and ineffective wheelchairs from the good ones. Either one of the two materials mentioned will work, but PVC tends to be the industry favorite. It's lightweight, waterproof, and won't corrode.
A lot of people assume that water wheelchairs are incredibly uncomfortable. This stems from the big difference in the upholstery on these products. When you compare a standard wheelchair seat with a pool one, there are some fundamental changes. Yes, pool wheelchairs will lack cushions and don't tend to offer the same comfort level. However, this is because they need to use waterproof materials that dry quickly.
Furthermore, it doesn't mean they are uncomfortable. You need a wheelchair that is comfortable to sit in for long periods as you will probably be in it for a while. Therefore, it's good to look out for a few extra features:
- Additional waterproof padding that can be attached to the seat
- A reclinable backrest
- Foot/leg rests
When a pool wheelchair has all of these features, it will be very comfortable. Even though you don't use this chair as often as your regular one, you still sit in it for a long enough time to get uncomfortable. With the right choice, this needn't be a problem!
Swimming pool wheelchair tires are significantly different from standard wheelchairs. Typically, they are a lot bigger than a standard wheelchair and are made up of different materials. This material can withstand underwater conditions without rubbing off on the floor surfaces. Perhaps the biggest thing to look for is the width of the tires. Standard wheelchairs can get away with thin wheels that look nice and compact. A waterproof wheelchair needs thicker ones that offer more stability and control when submerged.
You will not use your pool wheelchair for everyday use. Granted, you might use it every day, but you will have to switch between it and your standard chair. It is only useful when you're in a swimming pool environment.
For this reason, it has to be portable. You must find it easy to pack up and move the wheelchair from your home to the pool. Ideally, you can fold away the wheelchair to make it as portable as possible. From here, it can fit in the back of your vehicle and come with you to the pool. Then, it's a case of getting into the aquatic wheelchair when you arrive. Some people argue this isn't an essential feature, but portability will definitely make your life a lot easier.
How easy is it to move the wheelchair?
The next factor is the maneuverability of the wheelchair. Swimming pools are high-risk environments where anything can happen. Therefore, you need to be confident that your wheelchair is easy to move around. Regardless of whether you move it yourself or have someone pushing you, it must be a breeze. The chair should respond to your movements and make it simple to get around corners and navigate through small crowds of people.
Safety features included
Lastly, it's pointless buying a wheelchair that lacks safety features. Up until this point, you can find plenty of products that tick off the previous boxes. But, do they prevent common accidents in the pool area and make you feel at ease?
We've already mentioned a key safety feature that all pool wheelchairs should have; anti-tipping. This feature will stop the chair from tipping over, which can be a serious problem when submerged. With lots of people moving around in a pool, it's easy to create small waves that might rock your wheelchair. An anti-tipping feature keeps it firmly on the ground without rocking over.
Additionally, you will benefit from seatbelts or shoulder harnesses. Again, these improve your safety by keeping you locked into the chair. We find these safety features are particularly handy when pushing your chair down a ramp. It's very easy for someone to lose their balance and fall forward in the chair when moving downhill.
Lastly, the brakes themselves are a core part of a wheelchair's safety. You need ones that can stand the test of time and provide instant feedback. A promising sign that your wheelchair is safe is if the brakes lock when stationary. This prevents any rolling from occurring, meaning you stay in one place.
All in all, we suggest that you consider these key factors when choosing the ideal pool wheelchair. Create a checklist with all the features and make your way down it as you view different products. Speaking of which, you'll find a shortlist of the best handicap pool chairs in the next section.
The best pool wheelchairs 2020
After reading all the previous sections, you have all the knowledge needed to make a sensible purchase. You're aware of if you need a pool wheelchair, how to pay for one, and what factors to look for. All that's left is to search through the hundreds of products and pick out the best ones.
The good news is you don't have to do this. That would take a painstakingly long time, so we did it for you. Our research took all the previous factors into account, resulting in these products as the best of the best. Check out our reviews down below:
Aqua Creek: Pool Access Wheelchair
Aqua Creek is one of the most trusted brands in the industry, providing a range of exceptional pool and beach wheelchairs. The Pool Access Wheelchair comes in two different varieties: one with an 18" seat, and one with a 24" seat. Both of these options share the same features; the only difference is that the 24" one is considered a heavy-duty option. It's slightly sturdier, wider, and can accommodate up to 400lbs. By comparison, the standard version only accommodates up to 300lbs. We say 'only,' this is more than enough to handle the average human being.
This chair is made out of medical-grade PVC, meaning it is entirely non-corrosive and safe for use in wet environments. This is coupled with a mesh seat that dries extremely quickly, preventing any uncomfortable wetness. It also has an anti-tip design to make you feel safe, and some swing-out armrests for good measure.
The entire construction is incredibly sturdy and offers excellent support when going in and out of a pool. Your only concern might be a lack of seat belts or straps to help you stay in your seat. However, this chair is still very safe and is perfect in shallow water environments. It can also be used at home in the bathroom if you have a wet room instead of a shower.
Vipamat: Hippocampe Swimming Pool Wheelchair
Right off the bat, the Vipamat Hippocampe Swimming Pool Wheelchair offers a unique and striking design. Unlike the more traditional swimming pool wheelchairs, this one offers a reclined look. Sitting in it will put you in a reclined position with an extra bit of support for your legs. The front wheel is much further out in front than standard pool access chairs, which makes this option easier to maneuver.
There's a lot to love about this chair as it packs so many features into a unique package. The seat is very comfortable, using hydrophobic foam to great effect. This provides a nice cushion to sit on, and it sits very low to the ground. Again, this adds to the comfort as it makes you feel more relaxed - almost like you're chilling in a hammock! The only downside is that the low profile means this chair is only suitable in very shallow areas.
Speaking of which, this access chair offers a unique feature that a lot of other pool wheelchairs can't compete with. The funky design means you can use it as a launch chair when in the water. This is ideal for anyone that wants to get out of their chair while in the water. Some people suffer from mobility conditions that prevent this from being possible. As such, they can still sit in the chair and enjoy the water. Still, hydrotherapy is a common way of treating people with disabilities. Being submerged in water offers a state of weightlessness, which is proven to help improve motor skills. If you do a lot of rehab work in a pool, this chair is perfect as it will wheel you down the ramp and help you get into the water with no issues.
Overall, this is an interesting chair that might be perfect for people who make regular visits to the pool. It's a bit on the pricey side, but if money is no issue, it could be right for you.
AquaTrek Aquarek2 Aquatic Wheelchairs
Similar to the first product, AquaTrek offers two different models that are basically the same but with some subtle differences. In fact, the only real difference is in the seat depth. The AQ-250 model has a seat depth of 17", offering the perfect seating position for the average adult. It's designed in such a way to put the user in the ideal posture when sat in the chair. This can prevent a lot of the common aches and pains associated with regular wheelchair use.
To compare, the AQ-350 has a seat depth of 24" to accommodate larger adults. It's aimed at tall people, with the increased seat depth making it easier to achieve a bent knee position. Again, this allows for the correct posture when in the chair! This is a very unique offering as tall people regularly struggle to find comfortable wheelchairs - especially niche ones like an aquatic chair.
Both options have a 350lb weight capacity, and both are made out of furniture-grade PVC. They can both be totally submersed in water and call upon a stainless steel axle for added structural integrity. We're big fans of the safety and comfort features on offer in both models. They have retractable footrests, swinging armrests, and graphite hand rims. All of these things come with the product when you buy it. However, you can get some optional extras as well. This includes anti-tip wheels, a seat belt/shoulder harness, and a reclining backrest. So, if you want to make this chair even safer, you can!
As far as your safety goes, this chair is the best around. We love that you can buy extra features to make it safer and more comfortable. Plus, it continues to deliver in other departments, making it a fantastic choice if you need a pool wheelchair.
We will finish our entire guide by offering a few words of advice. This final section will be a buyer's guide where we look at the three best-in-class products and determine which one might be right for you. This is based on what each product brings to the table and what your specific requirements might be.
If you are on a budget, the Aqua Creek Pool Access Wheelchair is the best option for you. This is simply because it is the most affordable of the three, yet it still provides some excellent features. The construction is very impressive, and you feel as though you're sitting in something that won't budge. It may be the cheapest out of the three, but it's still exceptional value for money.
Those of you that place maneuverability and functionality as your main concerns will prefer the Vipamat Hippocampe. The unique design makes it so easy to move, and it can be used in many different pool scenarios. If you want to stay in the chair, you can. But, it offers functionality as a launch chair to help you get out as well.
Lastly, if you're looking for a complete pool wheelchair with safety at its core, the AquaTrek models are your best bet. We particularly like that there are two models for people of different heights. This is a problem with a lot of access chairs as they're at a set height and are supposed to cater to everyone. With two different height options, you get to choose one that feels the most comfortable. Of course, the USP is the extra safety features that will put you at ease when sitting in the chair.
On that note, you've reached the conclusion of our guide to the best swimming pool wheelchairs of 2020. All of the wheelchairs mentioned in this guide are available on our website. You can also choose different finance options if you need help paying for your chair. Thank you for taking the time to read this guide, and we hope that it has given you more knowledge on this topic. Now, you should be able to pick out the best pool wheelchair from our lineup!
If you're interested in other wheelchairs, scooters, or access devices, feel free to browse our website. We have other detailed guides that will help you make informed purchases for other products as well.