choosing an electric wheelchair or power chair

Choosing the right electric wheelchair or power chair

1. How much do you want to spend?

Obvious question but in a category where you can get solutions which cost from £500 to £15000 you need to work out which electric wheelchair or power chair cost bracket you’re looking at. Under £1000 you’re looking at mobility scooters or battery packs to add to manual wheelchairs. £1000 to £3000 there’s a great choice of electric wheelchairs including lightweight and folding wheelchairs. In the £3000+ category, you start to see chairs with different functionality- such as off-road, standing, elevating (seat moves up and down), app-controlled wheelchairs and bespoke chairs.

2. What user weight is it suitable for?

Chairs maximum user weight usually varies from 17stone up to 25 stone and some specialised chairs can cater for upwards of 30 Stone.
Making sure you have the right chair means that the motors will be appropriately calibrated to give you the performance the chair promises as well as the frame and wheels being able to support the user.

3. Transferring into the wheelchair:

If you can stand and move into a wheelchair then this is less likely to be an issue for you but consider how close you need to get to the chair when sitting in it and how low the seat is for getting back out. The arms and the footrests are the things to think about when getting into your new electric wheelchair. Some electric wheelchairs have footrests that swing out of the way. Some fold out of the way. Some are more static. Make sure the mechanism is suitable for you. Also, some of the arms swing up allowing side transfers and some are static. You may also wish to consider the height of the arms and the leverage you can get if you push yourself up from them.

4. Where do you want to use the chair?

Indoor usage means you need to think about the turning circle of the chair and the width to get through narrow doorways and corridors or internal spaces. If you’re using the electric wheelchair outside, then think about the kind of terrain you will be using it on. A trip to the shops will be easy with smaller wheels, however bigger wheels are designed to travel over gravel, cobbles and similarly uneven or loose surfaces. Country walks will need a power chair that can manage off-road and big wheels that can handle more unstable or softer grounds.

5. Are you transporting the chair often?

If you’re taking the chair in a car or aeroplane you will need to think about how easy it is to fold or take apart. Folding wheelchairs can fit in very compact cars. The weight of the chair is also a factor if you are transporting it. You need to think about who will be lifting the chair into a car and whether they can manage the weight. The lightest electric wheelchairs weigh around 21kg including the batteries. Most of our chairs way the same as a large, full suitcase. Chairs over 30kg can often incur higher fee’s when travelling due to it needed to be handled by multiple operatives. Additionally, when travelling liquid batteries can be difficult to store and are often not able to be taken on planes, where a lithium battery is not only lightweight but can be taken in cabin luggage and easily stored in a suitcase.

6. How far do you want to travel in the chair (between charges)?

The range of the Joyrider is up to 9 miles whereas the Freedom range goes up to 27 miles as for some models you can have up to 3 batteries connected at a time, each offering up to 9 miles in range. Each battery takes 4 hours to charge from flat, so you’d need 12 hours to charge all 3 batteries. Having an alternate battery allows you to run them flat and give them a full charge which will extend the life of the battery. Alternatively, you can keep 1 battery in the chair in your car and another in the house, so you never run the risk of losing power when out and about.

7. Do you need the arms to be moveable?

This is useful for transfers (discussed above) but also for pulling up close to a desk or table if the height of the arms doesn’t allow it to slide under a table, you may wish to lift the arms, so you can get closer. Look at the places you will be using the chair if you know, and consider their height and how this would fit in your home or workplace.

8. Is it comfortable?

Is there enough padding for the length of time you expect to sit in the chair? Cushions can be added to most chairs on the back and seat. Does the footrest give your legs the right support? If you are tall you may find your feet want to be further forward, this is often remedied by a cushion underneath allowing you to sit a little higher in your chair, this also means you don’t need your feet to sit further out which can cause issues when turning in tight spaces. Is the back of the chair high enough and where do you need your back to be supported? Do you need a headrest? You also may wish to consider the physical width of the chair. If the chair is too wide this may cause you to lean when sat in the chair which can cause back pain over the long term. You want to fit snugly into the chair but not so snug that its applying pressure to make you feel uncomfortable.

9. Attendant control:

Some chairs have the option to have the joystick control for someone to stand behind the wheelchair and control it. Pushing electric wheelchairs without the motor working is possible but can be fairly laborious. On some models, an additional bracket can allow the joystick to be moved (temporarily or permanently) to the handlebar at the back so that a companion can control the motor while walking with the chair.

10. Do you need any specialist functions?

Examples to consider are: the seat moving upwards and downwards (to deal with different heights in your home or office), tilting chairs, Stand up wheelchairs, Wheelchairs that can walk up stairs, app-controlled futuristic wheelchairs.

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