Power Chair Selection Guide
Selecting A Power Wheelchair
Nothing feels as good as the nimble behaviour of a mid-wheel drive power wheelchair with a tight turning radius. No more back and starting forward again to move around that corner, or piece of furniture! These chairs all have tight turning radiuses, and make life a lot easier, inside and outside. However, with so many models it can feel overwhelming. Never fear...each has it's own unique purpose, and we will do our best to match you with the chair that is just right to meet your needs.
First, decide how you will be using your chair, mostly indoor, and outside on smooth level surfaces only? Select a wheelchair with 250mm drive wheels for maximum maneuverability indoors. If you will be outside a good deal of the time dealing with rough terrain, or a stone driveway, you will want larger 300mm-400mm drive wheels for traction outside while maintaining maneouverability inside. If you intend using your wheelchair mostly outside you will need 350mm to 400mm drive wheels for maximum stability and to be able to climb 50mm-75mm curbs as you travel about.
Portable Power Wheelchairs
As among the most compact mobility products, portable power wheelchairs are not only designed for portability, but also for use in very compact spaces, such as small apartments and shops. With speeds up to 6kph, and offering a driving range of up to 16 miles, portable electric wheelchairs also work well on footpaths, in shopping centers, on cruise ships, and in airports
Portable electric wheelchairs feature a minimal seat by nature of the wheelchair's compact size. A travel seat typically has a padded base, low-cut padded back, with flip-up armrests. The seat is contoured to help keep you in place, with a folding backrest for transportability, and the padded cover is usually removable for cleaning. For legrests, a foot platform is used, flipping up out of the way for transfers.
To transport a travel power wheelchair, you must be able to transfer out of the wheelchair, and you or an assistant must be able to disassemble the wheelchair by removing the seat, battery pack, and base. While most components are relatively light, the heaviest components are approximately 16kg, so there is some lifting involved. Also, for reassembly, some coordination is required.
It is important to note that portable electric wheelchairs aren't intended as "full-time" mobility, but as supplemental mobility within one's home or when one wishes to go out-and-about with a very compact, transportable electric wheelchair, making them an ideal alternative to a scooter. Additionally, portable power wheelchairs aren't intended for rough outdoor terrain, or traveling over very long distances.
A portable power wheelchair may be best for you if you need:
An ultra compact electric wheelchair
An extremely maneuverable power wheelchair
A part-time wheelchair in your home or out-and-about
Transportability in standard vehicles (however, some strength and dexterity is required)
Comfortable but standard seating
A battery range of up to 16kl
A portable power wheelchair may not be best for you if you need:
Center-Wheel Drive Power Wheelchairs
With drive wheels located mid-ship, center-wheel power wheelchairs are among the most maneuverable types, literally turning on center like a top. In confined spaces, center-wheel drive electric wheelchairs require far less maneuvering than rear-wheel drive electric wheelchairs, and are very intuitive to operate.
Indoors, center-wheel drive power wheelchairs allow you to maneuver all but effortlessly, turning in the smallest kitchens, and outdoors they handle terrain very well, with traction and stability, featuring speeds up to 10kph, and up to 20kl of battery range. Additionally, most center-wheel drive wheelchairs feature large, 250mm to 350mm drive wheels, with "obstacle-climbing suspension," which allows them to safely, assuredly climb up to 25mm to 50mm curbs and thresholds.
Center-wheel drive electric wheelchairs feature captain's seating in high-back and medium-back styles. (High-back extends to approximately neck height, and medium-back extends to just below one's shoulders.) Captain's seating is very much like automotive bucket seating, with plush padding, vinyl upholstery, and flip-up armrests. High-back versions feature a headrest and often a manual recline feature, allowing you to adjust the angle for comfort or relaxation. Both high- and medium-back versions often fold forward for transport, as well. Solid-pan seating is a captain's seat option specifically designed for use with a pressure-management cushion. Some center-wheel drive electric wheelchair models are standard with electric elevating seating, while it's an option on others, so if an elevating seat is important to you, confirm availability on the electric wheelchair models that you're considering. For legrests, many center-wheel drive electric wheelchairs feature a choice of a foot platform, swing-away, or elevating legrests.
Center-wheel drive power wheelchairs are not easily transportable, where they require a vehicle lift or accessible van, so they should be cautiously considered if you need utmost transportability.
A center-wheel drive power wheelchair may be best for you if you need:
Full or part time use
Captain's style seating.
Versatility indoors and outdoors, including semi rough terrain
Speeds up to 10kph
Battery range of up to 20kl, based on model
A center-wheel drive power wheelchair may not be best for you if you need:
Rear Wheel Drive Power Wheelchairs
Rear wheel drive power wheelchairs are the the most versatile of all. While they don't have the maneuverability of a center-wheel drive, they are still very good in the hands of an operator with even just a little practice. The superior performance of a rear wheel drive on streets and rougher terrain more than compensates for the slightly less maneuverability. Rear wheel drive is a must for outdoor lovers.
A rear wheel drive power wheelchair may be best if you need:
A rear wheel drive power wheelchair may not be best for you if you need:
Folding Power Wheelchairs
Folding power wheelchairs, otherwise known as electric wheelchairs, are exceptionally versatile in that not only are they transportable, but they can also serve as full-time mobility, with adaptable seating that accepts pressure-management cushions, with full-coverage armrests, and highly supportive backrest options. Furthermore, with larger rear drive wheels, and speeds up to 10kph, folding electric wheelchairs perform well outdoors on paved and packed natural surfaces.
Folding power wheelchairs feature sling seating, meaning that the upholstery is stretched across the frame of the electric wheelchair - the same upholstery that's used on traditional manual wheelchairs. A benefit of sling seating is that it accepts pressure-management cushions, so it's adaptable for varying needs of comfort. Also, sling seating allows for the back upholstery to be replaced with a quick-release contoured back, if wished. For legrests, independent swing-away legrests are offered, swinging out of the way for transfers (some models may offer elevating legrests, as well).
Folding power wheelchairs have the ability to be transported in a car in a similar manner to a conventional folding wheelchair, but require some additional effort. The batteries must be disconnected from the electric wheelchair, and then lifted into the vehicle, weighing up to 16kg each. Next, the folded frame, weighing approximately 20kg must be lifted into the vehicle. Folding power wheelchairs are transportable, but do require some strength and coordination.
A folding power wheelchair may be best for you if you need:
- Full or part-time wheelchair use
- Adaptable seating that accepts cushions
- Indoor and outdoor performance, including surfaces like grass
- Transportability (but requires notable effort to disassemble and fold)
- Speeds up to 10kph
- Battery range of 20kl
A folding power wheelchair may not be best for you if you need:
- An ultra-compact model
- Extreme maneuverability (they don't turn as tightly as a portable or center-wheel drive electric wheelchair)
- Utmost transportability (they don't disassemble as compactly as portable models)
- Use on very rough terrain.