As discussed, wheelchairs are valuable mobility aids designed for people with various types of disabilities – either temporary or permanent. At present, there are numerous styles of wheelchairs sold on the market. Some of the most popular wheelchair designs fall under the power wheelchair category.
What are Power Wheelchairs?
Power wheelchairs are basically propelled by electrical energy. They use either belts or gears, and sometimes both. The belt-driven variety is typically quiet yet has a propensity to be high-maintenance. On the other hand, gear drives are low-maintenance. However, they have a tendency to wear out in just a short period of time.
Despite the considerably heavier body in comparison to the manual version, power wheelchairs can provide maximum assistance to people with restricted upper body strength, as well as to those who are not capable of self-propulsion. They normally come in various styles and makes, and usually offer a variety of features that specifically targets each person’s unique needs. They are easier to operate and endow the occupant with a certain degree of freedom without relying too much on a companion to set the chair in motion.
Low-end power wheelchairs have lightweight frames that are appropriate for indoor use. However, their frames are likely to crack, the front forks may bend and the motors have a tendency to wear out when abused outdoors. High-end models, on the other hand, are sturdier and more reliable. The frames are designed to carry more weight. These expensive power wheelchairs are best suited to those who are severely disabled or weak and require long-lasting mobility aids. Some styles may even be controlled via a joystick system and can traverse over a variety of terrains, as well as small and cramped spaces. Then again, the speed range may be limited due to the restrictions imposed by the type of motor.
Common Types of Power Wheelchairs
Power wheelchairs that are currently available over the Internet cost around $1600 to $7500. They are sold in these basic models: front-wheel drive, mid-wheel drive, and rear-wheel drive.
Front-wheel Drive Wheelchairs
They have become increasingly common since they offer tighter maneuvering functions compared to other power wheelchair models. Most front-wheel drive wheelchairs also feature a relatively lower top speed in comparison to the rear-wheel drive versions due to their tendency to readily turn at high speeds.
Front-wheel drive models are excellent for indoor use. But the large wheels in front of the seat also allows the wheelchair to traverse over a variety of outdoor terrain.
Mid-wheel Drive Wheelchairs
They offer the tightest turning capability among the three wheelchair types. However, they tend to be wobbly when starting or stopping. Plus, they have rear caster wheels and an additional set of anti-tip front wheels that may restrict their use on rough surfaces.
Mid-wheel drive wheelchairs are also good for indoor use. The smaller versions are appropriate for apartments, as well as nursing homes. On the other hand, the larger styles are suitable both indoors and outdoors. In addition, they typically have six wheels: two powered large wheels attached to the wheelchair’s base, and four smaller wheels surrounding the bigger ones.
Rear-wheel Drive Wheelchairs
These traditional wheelchairs are currently the most popular in the market. They typically run faster than front-wheel drive models. Then again, the obvious downside is a reduced turning capability in comparison to the two other types. Overall, these wheelchairs are more stable and best suited for all-around use.
Customizations and Additional Features
Power wheelchairs may be custom-designed to suit a person’s specific needs. However, doing so will require you to shell out a larger amount of money. If you aim for comfort and maximum functionality, you can choose from a variety of styles and features now sold on the market.
If portability is your main concern, then you can opt for the folding wheelchair models. They ensure comfort while remaining flexible. You can transport a foldable power wheelchair quite easily since it can be folded down and positioned in the trunk of your car. The obvious setback, however, is that the parts may sustain a larger degree of wear and tear compared to the rigid models.
You can also opt for a tilting power wheelchair. This feature allows the whole seat assembly, including the footrests, to tilt upwards to an angle of 45 degrees. A reclining power wheelchair, on the other hand, allows the occupant to lean back and raise the leg rests horizontally.