You may remember that I wanted to buy Bridget an electric wheelchair?
Sadly, talking about it is as far as I got. Ill health and money meant I didn’t have the energy or funds to go further.
Ironically, we now need two wheelchairs because my mobility is nearly as impaired as Bridget’s.
Fortunately, we hibernate during the winter, so we’ve been able to do without them. But it’s that time of year again when we start travelling, and two new powerchairs would be a big help.
Bridget has a new wheelchair – The WHILL Model C
Overview of Electric Wheelchairs
Let’s start with types of wheelchairs.
You may have noticed I referred to this type of wheelchair as an electric wheelchair and a powerchair.
Essentially, they are the same thing, and they’re all chairs powered by a battery.
But, this is important, some chairs are multipurpose, and others are designed for specific uses.
In other words, you should buy an electric wheelchair based on what you need it to do, rather than the look of it or its price.
I know that’s easier said than done because some wheelchairs are expensive.
Bespoke Electric Wheelchairs can be tens of thousands of pounds to buy. These wheelchairs are designed or adapted to suit an individual user rather than a mass-market wheelchair.
If you need a specialised wheelchair, you may be able to get funding from the NHS, Motability, Community Social Care or a charity.
I would be wrong to try and offer advice about these wheelchairs because they are tailored to the individual and their specific needs.
Powerchairs, on the other hand, are still very advanced. Still, many features and uses are designed to appeal to a wider customer base.
Their appeal is that they can be used indoors and out. Their small turning circle means they are ideal for use in the home and down at the shops.
Some can elevate, ideal if you need to be at head height or retrieve something from a cupboard.
They are controlled by a ball or joystick, perfect for people with limited dexterity or strength.
Some powerchairs are heavy, so they’re not always ideal for part-time travel.
Although, if you have a wheelchair-accessible vehicle (WAV), they offer comfort, stability, and manoeuvrability.
Folding Electric Wheelchairs
Folding Wheelchairs are the type of wheelchair I’m interested in.
These chairs are lighter, easier to transport and often cheaper to buy.
I know many of you are in the same positions as us.
You want the freedom a wheelchair can give you. You want a chair that’ll fold to fit in your car boot and a chair you can afford.
Don’t think you’re limited to choice when buying a folding wheelchair.
There are plenty of options and designs in the folding electric wheelchair range. You can configure these chairs to be suitable for their intended use.
I’ll take a closer look at these wheelchairs later in the post.
How Do Electric Wheelchairs Work?
I’m not going to pretend I know everything about how electric wheelchairs work. By god, I can just about wire a plug, so some of the wizardries are way above my pay grade.
That said, they generally work on the same principle.
Electric wheelchairs and powerchairs have one or more rechargeable batteries. The batteries power a motor or motors which make the wheels move. You use a ball or joystick to operate the wheelchair.
From a user’s point of view, that’s pretty much all we need to know.
Of course, if you need to know technical details, I’m sure the team at Careco will be too willing to oblige.
The Benefits of Using an Electric Wheelchair
Okay, now that we understand the options available and how wheelchairs work. It’s time to consider the important part.
What are the Benefits of Buying an Electric Wheelchair or Powerchair?
Independence – For me, buying and using an electric wheelchair is about independence.
I’m devastated by how quickly my mobility has deteriorated. How quickly my independence has been taken away, and Bridget’s has gone too as she relied on me to push her.
Freedom – A huge benefit of using an electric wheelchair is its freedom.
For within reason, nowhere is out of bounds because the wheelchair takes the strain.
I don’t know how many days out and trips we’ve cut short because we were too tired to carry on. An electric wheelchair will eliminate these restrictions and allow us to travel further and for longer.
Mobility – When we think about mobility, we think about the physical act of walking.
Of course, if you own an electric wheelchair, walking is less of a worry.
But, there’s another advantage, which is the toll walking takes on your body.
In my case, my muscles, joints and breathing all suffer when I walk. This means, even after a short walk, I’m no good for the rest of the day and usually the day after.
Using a wheelchair means I can preserve what little mobility I have left for other activities.
Comfort – If you buy the right electric wheelchair, there is no reason why you can’t travel in comfort.
Good quality wheelchairs are designed for comfort and include suspension, choice of wheels, changeable cushions and adjustable footrest positions.
All of this combined means you should be able to find a chair that is both practical and comfortable.
Ease of Use – Regardless of the benefits of using an electric wheelchair, it must be easy to use. By that, I mean it must be easy to operate.
From Bridget’s point of view, she has no grip or strength. So the joystick’s operation is perfect, and she can move the chair without strain on her hands, wrist or arms.
Most chairs have reversible joysticks, so if you’re left-handed, move the control panel to the opposite armrest. And the biggy, folding electric wheelchairs are lighter and can be transported in the car boot without too much effort.
Things to Consider When Buying an Electric Wheelchair
When buying your new electric wheelchair, there are things to consider. Not least the following:
#1 Try Before You Buy – Given that I have mentioned comfort a few times try an electric wheelchair before buying it.
Careco has physical showrooms, so if one is close to you, pop in and try different wheelchairs.
If not, if you buy a wheelchair online, check the company’s return policy. Careco, for instance, allows you to return the chair within 14 calendar days.
#2 Price – It might be tempting to buy the cheapest electric wheelchair, even a secondhand one.
I advise buying a wheelchair that suits your needs if you can afford it.
Look for a supplier who offers a price match to know you’re getting the best deal.
Also, buy a new chair because it has a guarantee, warranty, and often free extras such as insurance.
#3 After Sales Service – Another benefit of buying a chair from new is the after-sales service.
Electric wheelchairs break down and need extra parts, spare batteries or servicing. Therefore, buying your wheelchair from a company that offers these services is always best.
#4 Size and Weight – It’s worth mentioning when you buy an electric wheelchair that some are not only big but also heavy.
Make sure you have the space to accommodate it in your home or car.
Pay particular attention to the weight because weight is a deal-breaker if you need to lift it in and out of your car.
This leads me nicely, as promised, onto folding electric wheelchairs.
Folding Electric Wheelchairs
We want our wheelchair for travel, so a folding electric wheelchair is the most suitable.
There is a choice in this category, but they’re principally very similar.
The main differences between folding electric wheelchairs are:
Weight Capacity – so the weight of the user the chair can carry.
Seat Width – which means larger users can travel in comfort.
Seating Material – meaning cushion depth and design.
Range – How far the chair can travel on a fully charged battery.
Of course, other features and accessories are available depending on your budget.
I was originally looking at the Pride iGo, but my head has been turned.
I now like the Foldalite series. We’d need a standard Foldalite for Bridget and a Foldalite Pro for me because I’m heavier.
Foldalite Electric Wheelchair
The Foldalite electric wheelchair is designed for comfort, control and manoeuvrability. For me, the key features are:
- An Adjustable Backrest
- A Removable Cushion
- Protective Leg Guards
- Anti Tip Wheels
- LCD Joystick with Auto Cut Off
- An Attendant Push Bar
- Under Seat Storage
- On and Off Board Charging
- Weight 25 kgs
- Distance on Full Charge 9 miles
- Easy Folding for Transport and Storage
Foldalite Pro Electric Wheelchair
The main difference between the Foldalite and Foldalite Pro is size.
The Pro version offers a larger frame and a sophisticated suspension system, and these upgrades mean it can carry larger, heavier users in comfort.
The Foldalite Pro is bigger and heavier; bear this in mind if you are transporting it in your car.
Are You Considering an Electric Wheelchair?
If you are, I hope this brief overview has given you an insight into buying an electric wheelchair.
For me, the benefits of buying a folding electric wheelchair are obvious. I’ll regain my mobility, be able to travel with Bridget without injuring myself, and we’ll be able to travel further.
For Bridget, it means she doesn’t need to rely on me to push her, and I know this worries her. And she’ll be able to travel more comfortably than in her manual wheelchair. Also, it’ll give her independence back.