Manual and power wheelchairs – what is the difference?

Mobility - 4 Min Read

Manual and power wheelchairs – what is the difference?

Wheelchair options for every body.

Making the decision between purchasing a manual or power wheelchair should be taken with much care, advice, and direction from both medical and industry professionals.  With the help of a therapist and a Motion Consultant, an informed decision will be based on your clinical needs, your lifestyle and your environment as well as needs that may arise in the future .

Clinical needs

Your clinical needs include basic factors such as your height and weight, but also include your  knowledge and understanding of your own body, how it feels when you’re seated in the wheelchair, and what wheelchair functionality you may require in the future. 

Your strength and ability to manoeuvre a manual wheelchair will also be a key deciding factor. Manual chairs are much easier to transport and travel with, but require a lot of strength. Does propelling a wheelchair with your arms and/or feet seem like a realistic option? A power wheelchair on the other hand can be driven in a variety of ways – from joysticks to breathing-sensored mechanisms. 

Your lifestyle & environment

Where you live (environment), such as a house or apartment or in the country or city, as well as your day-to-day activities (lifestyle) are equally as important as your clinical needs when selecting a wheelchair. Will your home environment support the use of a power wheelchair? For example, you will need to know how wide your door frames are and if there will be any thresholds or stairways that will compromise use. Where  you go, how you get there, and how often will also be questions asked of you. For example, you’ll need to share if you take public transit, will need your wheelchair to fold into the trunk of a car, and/or whether you’ll be travelling more commonly over smooth ground or if you plan to take your wheelchair over more rough terrain.


Our business has been built on customizing equipment to fit the user.  This is achieved by working closely with you and your therapist to not only select the most appropriate kind of wheelchair for you, but to create seating systems that are specially designed to fit your body. So whether you select a manual or power wheelchair, our team will work with you and your therapist throughout the entire process to make your life accessible. Learn more about our custom seating services.  

This material does not constitute medical advice. It is intended for informational purposes only. Please consult a physician for specific treatment recommendations.