Many different kinds of disabilities require the use of wheelchairs for mobility. These are referred to as mobility impairments. Disabilities may be orthopedic (relating to the bone and muscles) or they may be neuromuscular (relating to the nerves and muscles).
For example, some of the more common kinds of mobility impairments are amputations, paralysis, spinal cord injuries, Cerebral Palsy, Multiple Sclerosis, Muscular Dystrophy, and more.
Medical conditions that require wheelchairs have a wide range of types and presentations, but finding a wheelchair that meets each person’s individual needs is very important. The right wheelchair, whether manual or electronic, sitting or standing, reclining or tilting, will be the one that offers the best opportunities for comfort, independence, and mobility.
The technology involved in electric wheelchairs is similar to that of mobility scooters, and some powerchair manufacturers are offering models that look more like a mobility scooter than a traditional wheelchair.
The user typically controls speed and direction by operating a joystick on a controller. Many other input devices can be used if the user lacks coordination or the use of the hands or fingers, such as chin controls and puff/sip scanners.
Powerchairs are usually controlled by a joystick on the armrest, which can be fitted on either armrest to suit left or right-handed use. The arm rest can usually be swung out of the way so that the user can get closer to a desk or table, for example.
If a joystick control isn't appropriate for the user's needs, there are other methods of operating the powerchair, including a head controller, a sip and puff tube, fingertip control, foot control or remote control that the caretaker rides the wheelchair user.
A powerchair or electric wheelchair can bring independence and freedom to those currently reliant on others. Once you have decided on a powerchair rather than a mobility scooter or wheelchair, there are still plenty of other choices to be made. Including the price, the style and size of the powerchair, how portable the powerchair is, and how far it goes between charges.
Traditionally, power-chairs were not designed to be transported, and so were very difficult to dismantle. However, nowadays, most electric wheelchairs are transportable, and some are effortless 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 to transport or recharge the electric wheelchair.
If the powerchair will be used in the home as well as outdoors, it is important to ensure that the powerchair is suitable, comfortable and provides the appropriate level of support. As powerchair users often spend more time in their powerchairs, the powerchair needs to be right for the environment it's going to be used in. There is no point having a big high performance powerchair if it's too big to use indoors, or a small compact powerchair if it is to be used primarily outdoors. The powerchair performance may be an important factor if it is to replace a car, or provide independence and allow extended journeys.
Different users will need different sorts of seat, leg rests and armrests as they provide the user with comfort and stability. A powered seat, tilt and recline back, or electric leg rests might also be an optional accessory. If the user will be spending a lot of time in the powerchair, then a wheelchair cushion, especially a memory foam cushion, will be a wise investment to ensure comfort and help to prevent pressure sores.
Powerchairs charge in the same way that mobility scooters do. The battery charger will usually plug into the powerchair control unit whilst the batteries are attached. This means that the user doesn't have to worry about lifting or refitting batteries.
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 unreachable for powerchair users.
Providing appropriate wheelchairs not only enhances mobility but begins a process of opening up a world of education, work and social life. In addition to providing mobility, an appropriate wheelchair benefits the physical health and quality of life of the users by helping in reducing common problems such as pressure sores, progression of deformities and improve respiration and digestion.
Electric and manual wheelchairs both allow the user to get around and undertake daily activities without assistance. An electric wheelchair, in particular, provides increased independence due to it’s ease-of-use and the ability to travel without experiencing fatigue.
However, even a manual wheelchair provides additional flexibility for the user and their carer. For someone with limited mobility who may not be able to walk unaided, a wheelchair can reduce the risk and fear of falling in the home or outdoors allowing you to move around with confidence.
Wheelchairs are specifically designed to fit, and maneuver, into small spaces making them ideal for use around the home. More robust wheelchairs are also designed to be taken outside and can be used on difficult terrains, like pavements and slopes.
A wheelchair can be used in conjunction with other mobility aids or forms of transport. Transit wheelchairs, for example, are lightweight and ideal for travelling or on holidays. Likewise, the majority of public transport services are wheelchair accessible, and both manual and motorized wheelchairs can be taken on board.
Of most concern when a loved one experiences limited or decreased mobility is the difficulty, they can face taking part in social activities. We know that socialization is vital for emotional and physical health, so it’s important to maintain a healthy social life.
A wheelchair, along with other mobility aids, can allow the user to continue to enjoy their favorite activities, whether that’s a walk around the local park, visiting the local shops or heading to a gallery. A wheelchair gives the user a more active lifestyle that may result in a more positive outlook on life.