Health & Medical Disability

What is the difference between a manual wheelchair and a powerchair?

Many people that are new to using a wheelchair are confused about the different types of wheelchairs available on the mobility equipment market. This means that people often end up with a chair that doesn't match their needs. This can lead to discomfort and even lack of independence if the wheelchair user is unable to get around as well as they had hoped. Whether you are choosing a wheelchair for yourself, or you are picking out a wheelchair for a relative or friend, taking time to research manual wheelchairs and powered wheelchairs will be beneficial to you.

Manual wheelchairs are the type of chair that many of us are familiar with. These simple chairs work manually – meaning they have to be propelled by a wheelchair user or pushed by an attendant in order to move forwards and backwards and steer in different directions.

Within the manual wheelchair category there are a number of options. The first thing to ask yourself is whether you want to push the wheelchair with your own strength. If the answer is yes, you should look for manual wheelchairs that are lightweight and easy to manoeuvre. This will make it easier for you to get around and give you a higher degree of independence. If you are unsure if you have the upper body strength to drive your wheelchair yourself, it is recommended that you consult your doctor for advice. You can also try out these wheelchairs in a showroom to get a feel for steering and make sure you are happy with controlling the wheelchair yourself.

Some of these wheelchairs also include push handles if the wheelchair will be pushed by an attendant some of the time. You also have the option to add handles at a later date should you find that they are needed. Also in the manual wheelchair category are travel wheelchairs that are ideal for occasional use. These wheelchairs are pushed solely by an attendant and have smaller wheels.

Powered wheelchairs (or powerchairs) are driven forwards and steered electronically meaning the wheelchair user can control movement without the need for an attendant. The controls for the wheelchair are usually located on the arm rest of the chair and are most often in a joystick format for ease of use. Power chairs are ideal for people with less upper body strength or those with limited mobility. Thanks to the technology of these power chairs, millions of wheelchair users are able to get about independently.


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