I’m a manual wheelchair user of 30 years (I bought my last rigid ultralight through you). I’ve been diagnosed with shoulder issues and need to reduce my pushing. I don’t need a power chair, but I am looking to get a new ultralight chair and I’m thinking a powered kit for it might be best. What do I need to know about adding power to an ultralight wheelchair before moving forward? Thanks, Lewis
Unfortunately, you’re not alone in your need to take strain off of your shoulders. While ultralight wheelchairs and related components such as wheels are very ergonomic now, they weren’t in the past, and so many long-time wheelers are in your situation. Fortunately, between increased ergonomics and “power assist” systems, you can remain very active in an ultralight manual wheelchair despite your shoulder strain.
When we speak of “power assist,” we’re referring to any motor-based system that’s added to a manual wheelchair to assist with propulsion. There are three technologies in the power-assist category: a power base controlled via joystick, power-assist push wheels, or a power-assist 5th wheel. Let’s look at these technologies available when adding power to an ultralight wheelchair :
Power-Assist Push Wheels
Xtender Power Assist Wheels
Power Assist push wheels
Power-assist push wheels are typically self-contained with a hub motor and battery. They replace your standard wheels. Via sensors, when you give them a push, each wheel’s motor kicks in, giving your every push a boost. The advantage of power-assist push wheels is that they keep your manual wheelchair very stock and familiar in its operation – you’re just getting a boost with each push.
Power-Assist 5th Wheel
Smart Drive MX2 Power Assist 5th Wheel
A power-assist 5th wheel is a small, all-in-one pack that quick-release mounts under your wheelchair. It contains a motor, battery and drive wheel. When you push your standard wheels, it triggers the 5th wheel to drive – your wheelchair then seems to glide on its own. Because the 5th wheel is so compact, it’s arguably the easiest power-assist system to transport.
My new Spinlife Power Wheelchair was just delivered. In getting used to it, do you have any recommendations and tips on how I can maximize power wheelchair performance? I live in Detroit and plan on using it a lot around town. Thanks. -Motoring in the Motor City
Hello Motoring in the Motor City,
Congratulations on your first power chair. There’s no doubt it’s going to get you out and about, giving you the mobility you need and deserve.
I know it may sound a bit basic, but the first tip toward maximizing your power wheelchair performance is to read the owner’s manual. It illustrates all of the features, including vital ones, such as how to operate the hand control (joystick), use the free-wheel levers (for manual pushing in an emergency), adjust aspects like the seat height, footplate, and so on. Some users simply sit in a new power chair and go, but it’s vital to read the owner’s manual, learning all of the functions and features of your power chair.
Now that you’ve read the owner’s manual, and are an expert on your power chair, let’s turn you into a pro….
We’re planning a family vacation for this summer, flying from Chicago to Florida, including my father-in-law who uses a power scooter. Are scooters allowed on airplanes, and if so, what do we need to know in advance to make the trip as practical as possible? -Michelle
The great news is that between advances in mobility technology and disability rights legislation like the Americans with Disabilities Act, air travel has never been more accessible than today. However, to make it as comfortable as possible when traveling with a power mobility device – such as a scooter or power chair — there are protocols to understand. Therefore, let’s take a look at what you should know from booking tickets to landing when flying with a power mobility device.
Airlines allow you to take your scooter along when you travel
Individually speaking, consumers may prefer one airline over another, and that’s fine, as they all domestically adhere to the same power mobility device regulations (carriers based outside of the U.S. may vary). So, as a traveler with a disability, remember, you’re also a consumer, so shop to your preferences and budget. However, whether you book through a travel agent, online discount site or the airline directly, all airlines request that you promptly notify them that you’ll be traveling with a power mobility device, as well as let them know of any physical assistance you may need. For example, if you’re non-ambulatory, the airlines will provide transfer assistance from your power mobility device onto an “aisle chair” that will escort you to your seat.