The Basics of Power Wheelchairs
Power wheelchairs are considered medical devices. For this reason, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates the classification, product listing, and other manufacturing standards. If you’re asking “is a power wheelchair right for you”, here are things to consider. While there are three classes of power chairs based on their risk, (Class I being the lowest risk and Class III the highest associated risk) most are generally considered Class II medical devices. All power wheelchairs are tested, according to FDA specifications, for performance and safety. In addition to the power wheelchair, many manufacturers make other mobility devices such as walkers, canes and other power-operated vehicles like scooters. These devices are designed to provide a different level of independence that power wheelchairs provide. Most power wheelchairs come with a limited warranty, usually for one year. Some parts and accessories may have a shorter or longer warranty period.
Electric Wheelchair Power Options
Power wheelchairs are also categorized based on the position of the drive wheels: rear, mid, and front-wheel drive. The drive wheels are the wheels that propel the chair and are powered by a battery pack or motor. Rear-wheel chairs have the drive wheel in the rear, with two smaller wheels in the front. Mid-wheel chairs have the drive wheel near the center with smaller wheels both in the back and in front of the chair. Front-wheel chairs have the drive wheel at the front with two smaller wheels in the back. Most chairs are controlled using a joystick or handle. Other power options, such as a head to chin controller, motion-sensitive tube, or eye-to-computer screen are available for users with more severe disabilities.
These wheelchairs come in a variety of styles and models. There are manual, battery-operated, electric, gas, hydraulic, folding/ unfolding, recline, tilt, and retractable models. Some incorporate accessories such as a pulse oximeter, MP3 player, or computer. Many models have extra options available, which allows the wheelchair occupant to customize the look and style of their power wheelchair. Customization of power wheelchairs can further benefit the user in a myriad of ways, whether it adds convenience or opens the possibility for more travel or sport. There are many types of wheels and other accessories that can be added to your power chair. This includes things like GPS, balloon tires, specialty cushions, strapping or belts, bearing upgrades, and more. Certain models of power wheelchairs are designed for easier travel and include a foldable frame that allows for easy packing. This folding frame can even come with a built in, fold-away adapter for users with reduced height requirements.
Battery-powered wheelchairs typically have one or more batteries that can either be recharged individually or be plugged into an electrical outlet, depending on the model and intended use. The battery can usually be replaced or additional batteries may be included to extend the operating life. Rechargeable batteries may need to be replaced from time to time depending on usage.
Are Power Wheelchairs Expensive?
While power wheelchairs are generally more expensive, health insurance or Medicare may cover a significant part of the expense, as long as your doctor can provide documentation of your need. The “extras” for your power wheelchair will most likely not be covered as they are not typically seen as a necessity.
Gaining Mobility and Freedom
For an individual who is unable to walk or get around without assistance, these devices can make mobility much easier. A power wheelchair is a great choice for those who are confined to their homes but need to be able to move about in order to be healthy and complete daily tasks. It can also greatly improve the independence of the elderly or someone with limited mobility. For those with a severe disability, it can help reclaim mobility when it may have seemed impossible. With so many models and customization options available, there is a power wheelchair available that can suit just about any user’s needs.
If you are searching for the perfect power wheelchair, have questions about power chairs, looking for customization, parts, or maintenance, contact Access4Mobility. We offer consultations to help you determine which power chair best meets your needs.