A Guide to Powerchairs
A powerchair is essentially a wheelchair fitted with two electric motors, that doesn't need to be pushed. They are driven using a joystick style controller, which is on the armrest. The controller can usually be on either armrest, and so is suitable for left or right hand use.
Most electric wheelchairs have a range of around 20 miles, whilst some will travel for up to 30 miles before the batteries need charging. The maximum speed is usually 4mph, but some newer models are capable of 6mph, but they cannot be used on the road unlike road a legal mobility scooter.
For some people a powerchair will be more suitable than a mobility scooter. Electric wheelchairs can usually be configured to a user's exact requirements, thanks to the adjustable armrests and leg rests, and some models even have specialised seating options available.
Traditionally powerchairs were not designed to be transported, and so were very difficult to dismantle. Nowadays, most electric wheelchairs are transportable, and some are very easy to dismantle. Powerchairs are using technology and features found on mobility scooters such as easy to remove battery packs, and easy to dissemble components that may mean the user doesn't need any additional help in order to transport or recharge the electric wheelchair.
In the past, electric wheelchairs were ideal for indoor use, but less so for outdoor use. As the technology and design has progressed, most powerchairs are suitable for both indoor and outdoor use. Bigger wheels and suspension are fitted as standard on some models of electric wheelchair. Whilst some models of powerchair have additional rear wheels fitted for off-road stability. Electric wheelchairs are available with front, rear or mid wheel drive. Rear or mid wheel drive powerchair are the most popular and ideal for using outdoors as well as indoors.
If the powerchair is going to be used in the home as well as outdoors, for example, it is important to ensure that the powerchair is suitable, comfortable and provides the right level of support. A 6mph high-performance electric wheelchair designed for use outside is not necessarily suitable for all day use in a small flat.
Most models of electric wheelchair have a range of additional extras available. These can include different leg rests, armrests, oxygen tank holders, and in some cases a different seating system. Some powerchairs are available with elevating seats so that the user can reach items on a work surface, on a shelf, or in a cupboard, that are normally out of reach of powerchair users.
Another option for someone who uses a traditional style of wheelchair is to add a battery pack and motor to the wheelchair. This will then turn the wheelchair into an attendant controlled powerchair. This is a good option if the attendant regularly pushes the wheelchair up hills, or wants to be able to be able to go up hills. The only downside to this option is that the user isn't independent and has to rely on someone to push them around. However, this can be a good compromise between a traditional wheelchair and a powerchair.
A powerchair can help to maintain or bring back independence. As they are easy to operate and maintain, electric wheelchairs can make a significant difference to the quality of life.
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