An electric wheel chair, also called a power or motorized chair, may be an attractive mobility solution for individuals who do not have the upper body strength or arm functionality to operate a manual chair. Power chairs may also ease the burden of a caregiver or eliminate the need for a companion to push a manual wheel chair.
Batteries, not arms, power these wheelchairs, which are available for both indoor and outdoor use. Motorized wheelchairs come in a variety of models that enable you to match the type of seating, features, power, and controls to your specific needs.
Most electric wheelchair models come in one of three types of wheel drives: front, mid and rear wheel drive.
For good maneuverability, consider a front wheel drive. These are excellent for indoors, but use caution at higher speeds because overall turning radius can be less than other chairs. These chairs are able to traverse tougher terrain thanks to large wheels mounted in front of the seating.
For exclusive indoor use, consider a mid-wheel drive chair, which normally has six wheels (two large powered wheels affixed to the base surrounded by four smaller wheels). These come in small models that are useful in apartments and other living facilities. Larger models may serve dual indoor and outdoor use.
For stability and all around use, consider a rear-wheel drive power chair. These chairs move at the highest speeds and have the largest turning radius of all the chairs. Additionally, they are able to handle more weight and can more easily go up inclines.
Another important consideration is power controls. Unlike a manual wheelchair, which is pushed or propelled by arm muscle power, an electric wheel chair is controlled with the fingers or other body part. The controls may be a standard joystick or a specialty switch such as a sip and puff device. Ask your healthcare provider which control is right for you.
The health and condition of the individual who will be using the chair is an important consideration prior to purchase.
For safety purposes, he or she must be able to fully control the steering and have adequate vision and depth perception to properly judge distances and driving widths while operating the chair.
Also think about the environment in which the electric wheel chair will be used. For residential use, take measurements to be sure the home's doorways, thresholds, rooms, and hallways have adequate space to accommodate a power chair.
Access ramps for the residence and vehicle, as well as storage area, are also considerations.
Always take a full test-drive before purchasing and check out several different electric wheel chairs for comparison. Evaluate the ease of use, comfort level, features, power, speed, and controls before making a final decision.
Aside from the electric wheel chair itself, learn as much as possible about what is covered in the warranty, as well as any ongoing maintenance requirements to keep your power chair operating in optimal condition. This includes finding out how and where you can get your chair serviced and/or repaired.
Find out what type of battery you need, how often the battery will need charging, and how long it is expected to last until it needs to be replaced. Often, the battery is an add-on charge.
Also ask about the timing of chair delivery and what type of in-home set-up and training is offered.
If you are thinking about buying a used power chair, have a mobility chair specialist evaluate any used models you are considering. Keep in mind that secondhand chairs generally do not have transferable warranties.
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