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Unquestionably, among the hardest, most time-consuming decisions that consumers have to make when ordering a new wheelchair is in choosing the color. After all, color is the foremost aspect of self-expression on one's wheelchair – from one wishing a subdued black, to another wanting flaming pink – and it can prove a difficult choice.

However, while color choice seems entirely subjective, there's actually some method to it, bringing the process into focus and achieving the best result: A color that one will enjoy for years to come.

Wheelchair Color Basics
Interestingly, the most popular wheelchair colors are blue, red, black, and silver, which, in fact, tie into global research showing these colors as universally popular in Western cultures, with blue being number one. Based on market demand, most wheelchairs are offered in these universally-wished colors, serving a majority of consumers. Of course, some users wish very specific colors for their wheelchairs, from pastel pink to lime green, and for the past 30 years, it's been common for wheelchair manufacturers to offer up to 25 color choices, especially in the manual wheelchair market. (It is important to note that fewer color choices are usually offered on power wheelchairs than on manual wheelchairs, namely due to a power wheelchair's high parts count and complexity, where as a manual wheelchair's simple, ultralight frame is easier to handle and paint.)

The “Functionality” of Wheelchair Color
The study of color's affect on humans is a science – which ties back to color selection as among the most emotional aspects of wheelchair selection. However, beyond the psychology of color, there's actually a “functionality” to the color of wheelchairs, as well, and understanding the functionality can help in one's selection process and satisfaction.

Easy maintenance and optimal appearance of a wheelchair's finish over the long term is important to most users, and color choice plays a key role. Much like car colors, shades of silver are among the most forgiving, less susceptible to showing dirt and scratches. Similarly, shades of champaign and blue (especially metallics), are also very forgiving. On the other hand, solid light colors, like white and yellow, and pastels like pink, readily show dirt and scratches, making them less desirable toward long-term appearance.

Black is a popular color among those who wish their wheelchairs to “blend in,” some not wishing to call any attention to them. However, what's interesting is that an all-black finish can actually make some wheelchairs appear more “cumbersome” than they are, detracting from a positive aesthetic. Many modern wheelchairs have design queues built into black components, like stylized black forks on an ultralight manual wheelchair, and when one elects a corresponding black frame, it can detract from stylized components and create the appearance of one large mass underneath the user. By comparison, a different color frame – a dark blue, for example – maintains a subdued appearance, yet allows a contrast among the components, giving a less-bulky, more-stylized appearance. Black-on-black is great if that's what one wishes, but for those looking for a less-obtrusive, more stylized look that's still subdued, a frame color that adds some contrast – again, like a dark blue – can work wonders.

Users sometimes note wanting an extremely bright colored wheelchair for safety reasons, believing that a neon green frame, for example, will make them more visible among roadway traffic. However, wheelchair frame color truly isn't an acceptable form of visibility. On manual wheelchairs, the small, painted tubing is most often less than 18” off of the ground, and the painted components on power wheelchairs are usually less than 12” off of the ground – neither of these are strikingly visible to those driving cars. Choose the frame color that one wishes as a whole, but leave the job of visibility to a surer bet of a blaze orange jacket, vest, or flag that's up high where it's truly seen.

A Wheelchair is a 5-Year Marriage
In 1990, day-glow colors were all the rage, but by 1995, when earth-tone colors were in, one would have looked a bit silly wearing a day-glow-colored tank-top and shorts – that is, in 5 years, color trends can totally change, making one appear dated. Similarly, one's own tastes can change, where a color choice today may not be one's ideal in 3 years. Therefore, it's wise to think twice before picking daring colors or a custom finish like camouflage, asking, Am I going to be able to live happily with this color for 5 years, and how will it look then? If the answer is at all hesitant, one is best served by choosing a surer color.

Make the Call
Indeed, as seemingly subjective as choosing a wheelchair color can be, if one applies some method to it – considering long-term maintenance, understanding how it reflects overall appearance, and ensuring that it's a color that one can live with for at least 5 years – it can be an easy, practical, and pleasing decision. After all, if one picks a color that's wears well in all aspects – looking good to it's owner and others over time – that's the best color there is!  

Published 11/09, Copyright 2009,