Electric wheelchairs, also called power wheelchairs, are often a more suitable option for those who are physically unable to self propel a manual wheelchair. Before purchasing an electric wheelchair be sure to consult with an occupational or physical therapist. Power wheelchairs are available in a wide variety of seat widths, depths and heights, and feature a number of armrest, legrest and seating options. Power wheelchairs allow users of every strength to control the electric wheelchair with a joystick, but higher end models offer a multitude of alternative control options – such as proximity switches, sip and puff power wheelchairs, head arrays, infrared switches and magnetic angle sensors just to name a few. The three most common types of power wheelchairs are front-wheel drive, mid-wheel drive and rear-wheel drive.
Front Wheel Drive Power Wheelchairs
Front wheel drive electric wheelchairs feature drive wheels that are placed forward of where you sit. They are very stable for uneven terrain or up and down hills. Front wheel drive power wheelchairs climb over small obstacles well but have slower overall speeds (about 5 – 5 ½ mph) because front-wheel drive tends to “fish tail” at higher speed levels.
Mid-Wheel Drive Electric Wheelchairs
Mid wheel drive power wheelchairs feature six wheels, including two rear anti-tip wheels. Because they turn from the center like a top, they are considered the most maneuverable of power wheelchair models, effective even in tight spaces. The power base of the mid wheel drive power wheelchair is usually separate from the seat and will accept any number of seating or power seating options, depending on wheelchair features.
Rear-Wheel Drive Power Wheelchairs
Rear wheel drive power wheelchairs have excellent outdoor high-speed performance and maneuverability. Some models incorporate a folding feature for easier transport. The power chair base is separate from the seat and can accommodate a variety of seating and power seating options.