When buying a new wheelchair, there are many types to consider. Wheelchair assessments can be quite stressful when applying for a new wheelchair as frequent as every four years. It makes it worse when able bodied assessors are trying to tell what you need and don’t need. In fact the only reason why I got one in the first place is because the college I attended, made it mandatory for me to have one in order to study there. I was told that Bradford was too hilly so I got a motorised wheelchair to get through college. This is one of the many times that a wheelchair user has to advocate for themselves.
One of the most popular varieties is an electric wheelchair. Before you commit to this purchase, make sure it is the right option for you. Here are some pros and cons to help you decide.
Pro: They are more comfortable
One of the top reasons people choose an electric wheelchair over a manual one is that they tend to be more comfortable. These chairs are often custom-made to fit the person’s size and body shape. You will find that the seat of the chair is cushioned to provide extra support and has a headrest at just the right height. It might also have additional back support. Also, the pads of the seat sit more securely than manual wheelchair seat pads. In general, electric wheelchairs will have more custom options for comfort than the manual wheelchairs have.
Pro: There are a lot of great features
You also have a wider range of features when you choose an electric wheelchair. Not only is the wheelchair motorized so you can go farther faster, but you can go in reverse without too much effort. You can also add a lot of different features since the larger wheelchairs provide ample space for extras. For example, if you don’t have good use of your arms and hands, you can get an electric wheelchair that moves when you change your head positions or get a voice-controlled wheelchair. Some models also add built-in heat just in case you are out on a cold day. You can get one with a seat that rises to help you get items on a higher shelf. This feature encourages pressure relief and independence. The newer models even have extra security features to prevent it from being stolen.
Pro: You have more independence
Perhaps most of all, you have more independence with an electric wheelchair. As someone who is a wheelchair user, it can be hard requiring someone to move the wheelchair for you, even when you do not have the energy to use your arms for turning the wheels of a manual chair. If you want to be able to get around freely without someone else’s help, an electric wheelchair is your best option.
Con: The wheelchair is large and heavy
On the downside, electric wheelchairs are large and bulky, not to mention heavy. Nobody will be able to lift this chair on their own to get it into a vehicle or into your home. You must have a proper ramp or a wheelchair-friendly vehicle. Manual wheelchairs are light enough to lift and fold to fit just about anywhere.
Con: They are more expensive
Naturally, electric wheelchairs are considerably more expensive. You are paying for all those extra features, the motorized function, and the overall size of the new chair. It is possible that your insurance policy will cover some of the costs, so you should check with them before you decide not to get this type of wheelchair. Charities, government and personal fundraisers may help but there’s no guarantee they will cover the costs.
Con: It impedes on your cardiovascular strength.
Upper body strength is important for a wheelchair user, especially when you have little to no use of your lower extremities.
Con: It is hazardous to use them in rain, ice, mud, sand and snow.
The traction from the wheels gets stuck in ice, mud, sand and snow. It can also be slippery when it rains. It is also tricky to charge them in a power cut.