What are Power Chairs?
Powerchairs are electronically powered wheelchairs and use rechargeable battery systems to move the chair. Powerchairs are operated via a controller or joystick to move and direct the movement. They are ideal for using around your home, inside shopping centres, and even outside. You can also take powerchairs onto trains, buses, planes or even on a cruise. In effect they can be used as an alternative to a traditional wheelchair.
Main Types of Powerchairs
Travel power chairs can fold easily and be disassembled if needed by removing the seat, battery and base to fit in the boot of your car, or for other travelling purposes. Weight capacity for travel power chairs is around 115kg with a folded weight of roughly 20kg. Max speeds are 4-5mph with a range upto 9 miles.
Full-size powerchairs generally have larger seats, armrests and footrests as well as more padding for comfort. They also have greater travel range (the distance it can travel before the battery needs to be recharged) since the battery is larger than travel/portable power wheelchairs.
Indoors - Make sure the power wheelchair can fit and maneuver indoors. Measure the doorways in your home (be sure to account for hinged doors which can reduce the doorway opening by 2″). The doorway opening should be large enough for the power wheelchair as well as the armrests and joystick if it protrudes beyond the base of the chair. You should also be able to navigate through hallways and make 90° turns into rooms. Spacing in bathrooms is typically tight and must be considered—can the power wheelchair maneuver around the toilet and sink? If your home has more than one floor, consider a wheelchair lift and pay attention to the weight of the chair with you in it (many wheelchair lifts have a weight capacity of 340kg.).
Outdoors - The terrain will affect the range of the chair. Larger and wider wheels and casters will travel better over rough terrain, making the ride smoother.
Controller - The most common controller for power wheelchairs is a joystick and keypad. The joystick controls the direction and speed in some models. The keypad can also control speed and other functions such as degree of recline and horn.
Things to Consider When Purchasing a Powerchair
Seating and Positioning:
Most users spend a lot of time in their power wheelchairs, so seating and positioning are very important for their health and comfort. The power wheelchair will have to accommodate custom backrests and seat cushions made of contouring forms, gels and other materials for those who require additional support. Individuals who are unable to or have limited ability to shift their weight should select a power wheelchair that can tilt-in-space or recline to relieve pressure and increase blood flow. These types of chairs can also ease transfers for caregivers and help manage posture for the user.
Where will you be using the electric wheelchair most often?
Will you be using it outdoors, Indoors or both? You have many options to choose from for powerchairs that can be used indoors and outdoors. Most powerchairs are designed to be used both indoors and outdoors.
Do you plan on transporting the power wheelchair often?
If you plan on traveling quite a bit with your powerchair, you should consider the weight capacity as this will vary depending on the user's weight. Also consider buying a travel/folding power chair.