What You Need to Know
A wheelchair tray can give you more freedom to take care of everyday tasks yourself instead of relying on others. It’s a good accessory to consider but there are several things you should look for when deciding which one is right for you. They include:
- Compatibility with Your Wheelchair
- Ease of Installation and Removal
- Quality of the Construction and Materials
The most important factor is being able to use the tray with your existing wheelchair. Look for words like universal or adjustable in the product description. That’ll give you a reasonable expectation about how it will work for you.
You’ll find that many trays will work with just about any wheelchair. The exceptions are non-standard manual chairs or powered ones. We suggest reviewing the dimensions before you buy to make sure it’ll fit for your situation.
The freestanding trays offer a reasonable alternative, especially if they have a decent adjustment range. These types use clamps to secure them in place. These are usually universal in size, making the fit a non-issue. The only remaining concern rests with whether it affects the use of your wheelchair.
Ease of Use
The best wheelchair trays are simple to put on and take off without any hassles or special tools. Chances are you won’t use it all the time, so you or your caregiver must be able to remove it without difficulty. We prefer products where this feature is intuitive.
You’ll see products that attach directly to the armrests whether they slip over them or rely on straps or hooks to secure them. We prefer the former since they tend to offer a more stable surface than the latter. Pay attention to the width of the tray to make sure the arms will sit along the entire length of the armrests or at least most of it to prevent tipping.
That also applies to the ease of cleaning it. We like products with a finish that can handle regular use without chipping or cracking. Dishwasher-safe ones offer an even better way to ensure that you can clean them thoroughly.
When it comes to quality, you do get what you pay for. It’s no different with a wheelchair tray. We suggest finding out the weight capacity of the product along with its materials. That’ll give you a good indication of its lifespan.
We prefer items with a laminated surface that will help with clean-up and also protect the tray from getting chipped or scratched. Just like a cutting board, dings provide places for bacteria to accumulate.
You’ll see trays in a wide range of materials from acrylic to wood to polycarbonate. All will serve their function adequately as long as they are well-made. has Acrylic tables have the advantage of being lightweight which is worth noting if you’re going to be setting up and taking down the tray.
A wood table offers durability and is often a more attractive option. On the downside, wood is heavy and can be difficult to lift and maneuver. Polycarbonate tables provide the best of both worlds with a product that is, for all practical purposes, unbreakable yet lightweight.
How comfortable a tray is often falls into the deal breaker/dealmaker categories. When it’s in place, you will likely use it for long periods of time. Rounded edges and an ergonomic design go a long way toward making it a wise investment.
Most items have a raised lip around the edge of it to keep things from rolling off the surface. We suggest sticking with products that have this feature along the entire perimeter. However, there is still that fine line between practicality and comfort. It shouldn’t hurt to rest your forearms on it.
Make sure whatever product you choose has a satisfaction guarantee and preferably a warranty too. Buying online is convenient, but it doesn’t beat trying out a tray for a few days to see if it’s the right choice.
Compared to some accessories, a wheelchair tray isn’t expensive, though you will see a range of prices. After all, the wheelchair itself can run anywhere from under $200 to several thousand dollars.
Trays vary in cost too, depending on the construction, materials, and other features. Standard items that fit on the armrests are an economical choice usually. However, depending on the weight of the tray, it may mean having someone else install and remove the tray for you which may affect its usefulness.
Standalone models offer the convenience of being able to move them aside easily when you’re done with them. They may have additional features too like a cup holder. But they usually cost more than other trays.