Choosing an Electric Wheelchair: What to Consider
There are a number of different types of electric (or power) wheelchairs available, which can make choosing one seem like a daunting task. To make your decision easier, here are eight things to keep in mind when deciding which electric wheelchair is right for you.
All electric wheelchairs have limitations on the amount of weight they can support. Basic chairs can generally carry up to 300 pounds, depending on the model. Heavy-duty power wheelchairs are designed specifically to accommodate users of a greater size and weight. The Pride Mobility Quantum 6, for example, has a maximum weight capacity of 450 pounds.
The chair’s dimensions will give you an idea of how large the chair is and how well it will accommodate your body. Electric wheelchairs are designed to fit most doors and hallways, but if you live in a particularly narrow home, take that into account. Seat width is an important aspect to consider for users with larger than average body size.
If you’re going to be using your electric wheelchair to get around town a lot, you’ll want to choose a model with a long battery life. Battery range varies greatly between models, generally allowing for anywhere between 10 and 25 miles of travel distance on a single charge. Keep in mind, however, that many variables can influence the battery range, including the weight of the user, the age of the batteries, and the type of terrain being travelled.
Speed can be an important factor to consider in a power wheelchair, especially if you plan on travelling long distances. For maximum speed, consider getting a rear drive power wheelchair. The power provided by rear wheels can allow for speeds of up to 8.5 mph with models like the Sunrise Medical Quickie Xplore.
Turning radius refers to the amount of free space required in each direction around the wheelchair in order to perform a complete 360-degree turn. A number of specifications affect the turning radius, including the frame length, the footrest type and angle, and the size of the seat. If you’re going to be maneuvering around tight corners and spaces, it’s best to go with a mid-wheel drive power wheelchair. Mid- and front-wheel drive chairs tend to have a turning radius between 20 and 30 inches, whereas rear-wheel chairs generally require around 40 inches or more.
For users with an active lifestyle, portability is key. Portable electric wheelchairs like the Invacare Nutron R51 are foldable for easy transport in a vehicle, while travel chairs like the Pride Mobility Go-Chair can be quickly dissembled and reassembled for no-hassle travel.
A number of electric wheelchair models such as the Pride Mobility Quantum 6000Z come with optional add-ons that allow you to recline, tilt, and elevate the seat for improved comfort. For the ultimate in adjustability, standing power wheelchairs can be operated in either a stand-up or sit-down position. The ability to stand in a wheelchair is linked to a number of psychological and physiological benefits, including prevention of pressure sores, strengthening of the cardiovascular system, and improved quality of life.
Take note of whether the driving wheels are located in the back, middle, or front of the chair. Rear-wheel drive chairs allow for greater speed, while mid-wheel drive chairs are considered to be the most maneuverable. Front-wheel drive chairs are great for uneven terrain, but tend to be the slowest of the three options. Wheels may be either solid or pneumatic (air-filled). Be mindful of the size of the caster (non-drive) wheels as well. In general, the smaller the caster wheels, the less suitable the chair is for uneven or bumpy surfaces.
Regardless of which electric wheelchair you choose, we’re sure you’ll be happy with the mobility and quality of life it affords for you or your loved one. Feel free to contact one of our resident experts to get a better idea of which chair will best accommodate your needs.