Most of manual wheelchair users are suspicious of electrically powered models. Why?
They have heard the horror stories of electric wheelchairs giving up the ghost at the most inappropriate moments, tell themselves that their beautifully defined upper arm muscles will dissolve into blobs of wobbly fat never to be seen again, they fear electric shocks, power failures, maintenance costs and the initial outlay for a quality model. But are such fears and worries based on fact?
As with most relatively new inventions, most of this negative feedback is based on the earliest available models. Various companies have long realized that, with hundreds of thousands of forums, reviewing sites and social media platforms, a badly designed product won’t last for long. While this might not matter for smaller, insignificant products which can easily be replaced, putting a faulty or badly designed electric power wheelchair on the market is manufacturing suicide.
With technology racing forward in leaps and bounds, one of the areas that has seen incredible steps forward is that of mobility aids. While manual wheelchairs have been improved with lighter frames and more comfortable seating to minimize pressure sore risk, electric power wheelchairs have raced ahead in the wheelchair race. Not only are these powered models able to incorporate state of the art pressure relief cushions and aluminum frames like their manual cousins, they have also taken advantage of new engineering features such as near silent brushless motors, intelligent braking systems (making driving downhill much safer than with manual wheelchairs), and shock absorber systems.
So why should you replace your manual wheelchair with a powered model?
- Getting around with a powered model:
- Younger wheelchair users can travel on terrain only the most expensive manual wheelchairs can handle
- Older wheelchair users are no longer dependent on a travel companion
- Wider choice of amenities within reach such as larger supermarkets, sports events etc
- More opportunities for social contact:
- The freedom to travel further afield means more opportunities for social contact
- Two-seater models available for travel as a couple, with friends or even with a much-loved pet!
- Health benefits:
- Users of power wheelchairs can involve themselves in a wider range of activities thanks to a wider choice of amenities
- Independent travel for the older generation means more long-term physical activity
- When no longer reliant on a carer to get around, the wheelchair user will accomplish more during daily life
- Easy and comfortable maneuverability on various terrains:
- Intelligent brakes, better ground clearance and shock absorbers make longer distances more comfortable and safe
- Long battery life means more freedom of movement and independence
- Headlights for travelling in the dark and simple controls make evening outings a pleasure, not a risk
- Easy maneuverability: all but the largest power models can turn 360° in a smaller area than a manual chair
- Ergonomic adjustable seats with anti-decubitus cushions for ultimate comfort
- Overall benefits
- New models are reliable and very well designed and manufactured
- Smaller models can be folded into trunk-sized packages
- Wide range of sizes and models to fit every body and every budget
So should you replace your manual wheelchair? Of course. Those that intentionally use their manual chairs to keep fit should still keep them, but the acquisition of an all-terrain power model will give even these wheelchair users the opportunity to go to places only the most advanced (and extremely expensive) manual chairs can take them.
Today’s electrically powered wheelchairs are no longer the noisy, unreliable, uncomfortable and behemoth monsters of the eighties and nineties. They are lightweight, all-terrain, well designed and extremely reliable modes of transportation, ready to take the user safely to his or her destination as a totally independent member of society.