Working in the community care field as I have for the past ten years, I have been exposed to a real wide variety of both manual and motorized ( or electric ) wheelchairs, as well as a number of personal mobility scooters. During that time, both from speaking with different people involved in the maintenance of such vehicles as well as just searching out information out of curiosity, I have come to gain a better understanding of how these different kinds of mobility devices enable individuals in their own ways respectively.
So, motorized wheel chairs and mobility scooters, what are they?
Well, with this post I would like to delve into the subject of the motorized wheel chair. Electric wheelchairs are motorized wheelchairs that make use of either a system of gears or a system of belts or sometimes even both. Power wheelchairs with belt drives are typically very quiet, but they require more maintenance. Modern gear drives are fairly quiet and low-maintenance, but they tend to wear out more quickly then belt drives, and get noisier in the process.
The motorized wheelchair does seem to vary in its durability. The more low end motorized wheel chairs have lighter frames and are usually more suited for primarily indoor use; the lighter wheelchair frame can more easily crack, and the frames' front forks can bend. Also, it seems that wheelchair motors die out faster when they are used to excess in an outdoor environment. The more recent and higher priced motorized wheel chair seems to be more durable and reliable and the frames are designed to handle more weight. Some of the newer electric wheelchair models are even designed with spring suspension, which can allow for a much smoother ride over more uneven territory.
Motorized powered wheelchairs currently can run you from anywhere between $1,800 and up if purchased either from a brick and mortar retail location or from an online online retailer. These kinds of wheelchairs are available in three basic models: front-wheel drive, rear-wheel drive, and a mid-wheel drive.
The front-wheel drive motorized wheelchair has become more common because it offers a tighter turning function. Most of the front-wheel drive wheelchairs have a slightly lower top or maximum speed than their rear-wheel counterparts because they are known to turn too readily at higher speeds. The rear-wheel drive electric wheelchair is the more traditional and most popular style of chair. It is generally faster then a front-wheel model but provides for a poorer turning capability in comparison to the front-wheel and mid-wheel models. The mid-wheel drive wheelchair provides the tightest turning of all motorized chairs, but has a tendency to be somewhat unsteady when stopping and starting. The mid-wheel drive has caster wheels in the rear and an extra set of anti-tip wheels in the front. This set up of wheels limits their use on more uneven surfaces.
Finally, there are some additional features that are available on many motorized wheelchairs. Many chairs have an electric wheelchair power tilt, this is a feature that allows the chair's user to tilt the entire chair's seat assembly and footrests upwards to a 45-degree angle. The electric wheelchair recliner is a feature that allows the user to tilt the seat back and raise the leg rests up horizontally. Both of these features provide relief to the chair's occupant and are of help in the prevention of pressure sores.
Well that about does it for me in laying out there what I have come to learn about the motorized wheelchairs that are out there. With my next post, I will take a look at what I have observed and learned about another classification of mobility device: the mobility scooter.