Power Wheel Chair Types, Features and Maintenance
Power wheelchairs (also known as electric wheelchairs or powerchairs) are for people who lack the motor function or cardiovascular strength to operate a manual wheelchair. There are many different types of power wheelchairs, and selecting the correct one for the user is very important for his/her comfort and well-being.
Most power wheelchairs come in two parts: the power base and the seat. The power base holds the batteries, motor and other electrical components, and the seat consists of the backrest, cushion and armrests. The controller (joystick and keypad in most cases) attaches to the armrest and is connected to the power base.
Power Wheelchairs Types
There are three main types of power wheelchairs: travel/portable, full-size and heavy-duty.
Travel or portable power wheelchairs can fold or can easily be disassembled to fit in a trunk of a car or in airplane cargo.
Full-size power wheelchairs have larger seats, armrests and footrests for more comfort. They usually travel farther per charge because they have a larger battery.
Heavy-duty power wheelchairs (also known as bariatric power wheelchairs) are for those that require a greater weight capacity than the standard 300 lb. These chairs normally have reinforced frames, heavy duty motors and larger seats.
Power Wheelchairs Features
Typically, power wheelchairs come with two larger wheels (called “drive wheels”—the motor is connected to these) and two to four casters which help with stability. The drive wheels may be located in the front, middle or rear of the chair and depending on where the power wheelchair is used; one drive system may be more suitable than another.
There are two main types of seats: a traditional seat (which looks like a manual wheelchair) and a captain’s seat (more cushioning and contoured for the user). Traditional seat power wheelchairs and seats with less padding are generally more portable. The amount of cushioning in the seat and backrest may be important for the user, especially if they require additional support. They can be contoured foam, air filled, a combination of the two or gel-filled.
Most power wheelchairs have the user sitting in the upright position. For users that have trouble shifting their weight (to relieve pressure and increase blood flow), some chairs can recline and others can tilt-in-space (change the orientation of the chair without changing any angles of the lower body).
A joystick on the armrest controls direction and speed in some models (speed may also be controlled by keypad). The keypad can also control other features, such as degree of recline. Other controllers that can be fitted on power wheelchairs are available for those unable to operate a joystick and keypad, such as head control (controllers in the head rest), chin control (controllers near the chin) and foot control (pedals and buttons on the foot rest).
Power Wheelchairs Maintenance
Always consult the owner’s manual before performing any type of maintenance on the power wheelchair. Having the chair regularly inspected and maintained is essential for safe riding.
How much does a Power Wheelchairs cost?
A Power Wheelchair price ranges from $1,500 to $4,000 and can go up over $15,000. Mid wheel drive systems average higher than front and rear wheel drive. High-end power wheelchairs come with many options such as recline, tilt-in-space and some can even bring the user to a standing position. High-end power wheelchairs can also reach faster speeds (11.6 mph, average power wheelchair travels at about 4–6 mph) and have greater travel range.