Beware of breakage of manual wheelchairs! Frame or wheel may break during use
Wheelchairs are assistive devices to promote mobility for people having difficulty in walking due to physical dysfunction. Wheelchairs are roughly divided into two: manual wheelchairs and power wheelchairs. Manual wheelchairs include attendant propelled wheelchairs which are manually operated by attendants and self-propelled wheelchairs which are manually operated by users or attendants.
If a manual wheelchair is broken in its frame or wheel when it is used only by a physically challenged person, it is difficult for such a person to quickly react to an unexpected move and the person may fall or get injured.
PIO-NET1 has registered 95 inquiries about broken manual wheelchairs received by local consumer affairs centers in about 5 years and 10 months since FY2014. Of these, there are 30 harmful or hazardous cases, 2 cases of which include serious injuries due to falling or bumping to the wall.2
NCAC received two requests for product tests related to manual wheelchairs broken during use from local consumer affairs centers in the last three years.
Therefore, NCAC examined the strength of some self-propelled wheelchairs sold at relatively low prices to share test results and relevant information on this issue.
- 1 PIO-NET is a database that collects information on inquiries concerning consumer affairs by linking NCAC with local consumer affairs centers and similar organizations across Japan via an online network.
- 2 Data received from April 2014 through the end of January 2020. The above inquiries were categorized and counted for this report.
Running durability varied among tested products although their prices were similar.
Photo 1: Frame near the left rear wheel snapped off (example of damage during the running durability test in accordance with JIS)
Photo 2: Spokes broken near the head (example of damage during the running durability test in accordance with JIS)
Photo 3: Three damaged parts of the front wheel (example of damage during the running durability test in accordance with JIS)
Representation of pre-use check
All the brands indicated that wheelchairs should be checked before use. Some of the brands indicated items to be checked with illustrations.
Representation of regular maintenance
All the brands indicated that regular maintenance should be done. Some of the brands listed consumable parts and replacement parts.
Advice for consumers
- If you have manual wheelchairs, check each part to make sure there's no damage or defect. Should any damage or defect found, stop using the product and inquire of the seller or the manufacturer.
- When buying a manual wheelchair, choose a durable one with JIS or SG mark. Keep the test results in mind.
Request to businesses and manufacturers
- Raise conformity with standards such as JIS and SG and properly address breakage and defects through customer service.
- Clearly describe on instruction manuals how to conduct pre-use check and regular maintenance. Offer spots (e.g. shops) where customers can ask for regular maintenance and set up a helpline for customers.
Request to the government
- Remind consumers to conduct daily pre-use check and regular maintenance in order to prevent similar accidents.
- Guide manufacturers of manual wheelchairs to conform their products with JIS and SG requirements.