Before you select a power wheelchair or other mobility device, you should think carefully about where you plan to use your chair and how amenable the surfaces you plan to traverse are to wheelchair travel. Power wheelchairs are now available with three types of drive: rear-wheel, mid-wheel and front-wheel drive chairs that work best in different environments, so long as you make the necessary modifications.
Mid-Wheel Power Drive Wheelchairs for Indoor Use
As compared to a scooter, a power wheelchair is more compact and easier to manage in the house as long as you purchase a chair that will fit through your doorways and has a small enough turning radius to accommodate use in the kitchen, bathroom and other rooms.
If the only place you need a wheelchair is inside your home, a mid-wheel drive power wheelchair may be the best choice. Equipped with three sets of wheels, the middle set is the main driver and allows for better maneuverability. The weight distribution on mid-wheelchairs is less stable than other types, so if you are heavy or plan to use the chair outside sometimes, you might want to consider a rear-wheel drive chair.
Familiar Rear-Wheel Drive Chair for Multipurpose Use
The rear wheel drive chair is considered the best for multipurpose use. This design is the most common one in use and features two large wheels at the rear. Its two sets of wheels in the front and back are weight-bearing and feature anti-tip casters. Your weight is better spread out among the wheels and the chair is more stable when you use it outside. The style requires a wider turning radius which makes for smoother navigation outdoors or in other open spaces. The chair is also faster, which is a good match to individuals who need to quickly make their way across parking lots, school campuses, or city sidewalks.
Front-Wheel Drive Chairs
Front-wheel drive systems use a fixed, drive wheel pivot point, which means that the chair turns from the front. With large front wheels and rear caster wheels, these chairs are known for their small turning radius, especially on compact models, and ability to maneuver around tight corners and through narrow spaces. As with mid-wheel chairs, they are most often used indoors, and they have lower top speeds to guarantee safe travel over various surfaces.
For Best Results, Prepare Your Environment for Your Power Wheelchair
Each type of power wheelchair works best in particular environments, so before purchasing you should carefully assess your anticipated usage, test drive various types, and make the modifications necessary within your home and on your property to ensure easy usage:
- For ease of use, make sure that you remove threshold door sills between rooms.
- Consider installing a wheelchair ramp over steps and across doorway landings to facilitate moving the power wheelchair from the outside to the inside of the home.
- Plan on installing a lift system within your home or outside it if you have multiple levels.
- For home use or while traveling, consider carrying a foldable power chair ramp for low steps or curbs.
Before buying a power wheelchair, discuss your options, as well as the modifications you need to make within your home, with the professionals at Western Stairlifts. As an ADA-certified dealer and installer of mobility equipment, we will ensure you get the best power wheelchair for your needs.