Today, independence and autonomy are two key elements in people's lives. Sometimes they are limited for reasons beyond our control, such as a disability, an accident, or simply the passage of time.
Electric wheelchairs are a perfect solution for regaining lost freedom and improving the quality of life for people who have lost part of their mobility. They are, in addition, an excellent alternative for people who, due to their physical characteristics, cannot use a manual wheelchair.
The importance of choosing a suitable wheelchair
When you want to buy an electric wheelchair for the first time, it can be complicated to navigate because you are faced with a wide range of models and brands on the market, with many features and technical data that are difficult to understand.
We know how important it is to choose a good electric wheelchair, and that is precisely why we want to help you substantially improve the quality of your life and be completely satisfied.
Ready to meet the challenge? Here is a detailed guide in which we explain how to find the best model for your needs.
Frequently asked questions about buying a wheelchair
Before choosing a wheelchair, ask yourself these questions to see if you should focus on a particular range:
1. What kind of terrain do you travel on?
The type of terrain on which you travel is very important when choosing an electric wheelchair. There are three main elements to consider: the type of wheels, shock absorption of the wheelchair, and power.
There are 2 types of wheels: pneumatic and solid.
- The solid wheels are harder and stronger, but being rigid they transmit more of the vibrations of the ground. Wear causes them to lose their homogeneous shape, slightly increasing this effect.
- Pneumatic wheels they absorb shocks better and adhere more to the ground, thus making driving more comfortable, especially if you travel long distances or have to overcome uneven terrain.
Generally, the front wheels of electric wheelchairs are solid, while the rear wheels may vary depending on the model and brand.
If we have to travel over uneven terrain, we will need larger pneumatic wheels to facilitate outdoor travel and to have better grip on the ground. In addition, the presence of this type of wheels reduces the "clanking" of the wheelchair on rough terrain. It would also be advisable to purchase a wheelchair with more powerful motors and a larger battery capacity if you intend to use the wheelchair on this type of terrain regularly.
If, on the other hand, we use our power wheelchair on smooth floors such as those in houses or shopping malls, it is sufficient to have smaller, sturdier wheels.
Suspension or shock absorbers
Suspension or shock absorbers are the system the power wheelchair is equipped with to protect the person from bouncing, bumps or vibrations. It allows the wheelchair to absorb unevenness in the ground and makes it more resistant to shocks.
Electric wheelchairs can be equipped with front or rear shock absorption, or both. For people with hip or back disorders, it is recommended that the wheelchair be equipped with shock absorbers.
The power of the power wheelchair is determined by the watts (W) of the motor. The higher the power, the less difficulty in tilting and lowering. To be clearer, for example, if the path is on uneven ground with cobblestones and you have to climb a slope, it is recommended that the wheelchair have pneumatic wheels, cushioning and a minimum power of 200W for each motor.
However, if you intend to drive on smooth terrain without slopes, a wheelchair with solid wheels, no suspension and no high power is sufficient.
2. Do you need to travel long distances?
If you have to travel long distances, it is best to opt for a electric wheelchair with a wide range of autonomy.
To know how far you can travel with a wheelchair, you need to consider the Ah of the batteries. Ahs (Amperehours) indicate the charging capacity of the battery. The higher the number of Ah, the more range the wheelchair will have.
L'autonomy indicates the time or distance that can be traveled without recharging the wheelchair. Keep in mind that the higher the speed, the heavier the occupant, the steeper the gradients... the greater the need for the battery and the shorter the duration of the charge!
In many models of electric wheelchairs it is possible to purchase additional batteries to the standard ones. This is very common in ultralight wheelchairs, as they usually have removable batteries and can be changed at any time during travel. In addition, these batteries are lithium, so their weight and size make them easy to carry while traveling.
3. Do you need to regularly transport your electric wheelchair by car?
If you often have to store your electric wheelchair in the trunk of your car for use in different places, we recommend that you opt for a Ultralight wheelchair or an electric folding wheelchair, because they are easier to transport.
Electric folding wheelchairs, such as the Mia Medical Electric Folding Wheelchair, are more compact in that they are smaller and many of them can be carried on their own wheels like a trolley. This wheelchair fits perfectly in both indoor and outdoor environments due to its small size.
4. Do you need an especially comfortable and sturdy electric wheelchair suitable for large or heavy people?
It is very important to purchase an electric wheelchair suitable for your weight. The technical specifications of all wheelchairs indicate the maximum weight for which they are designed.
If you are a very large or heavy person, we recommend that you buy a sturdy electric wheelchair. They usually have the most comfortable seat, the biggest wheels, the sturdiest frame and more power, so you can drive it almost anywhere without any problems.
5. Will you drive the wheelchair? Or will a companion take care of it?
Some models offer the possibility of incorporating a joystick or adaptor, which allows the person pushing the wheelchair to drive instead of the person sitting in it. Before purchasing it, we recommend that you consider the option of a joistick for the companion, as the patient may be able to drive it independently at the time of purchase, but over time may need a person to help. In this case, we recommend ordering the wheelchair already adapted for this possibility.
Another solution may be to install a engine for propulsion, or an electronic traction device for manual wheelchairs, which can replace all the pushing work done by the attendant and can be hooked onto the frame.
On our site we offer the possibility of renting the V-Drive Wheelchair Thrusters, with which it will be very easy to overcome a hill or a bumpy road!
6. Do you want to transport your electric wheelchair by plane?
If you plan to travel by air and take your electric wheelchair with you, it is important to know that batteries cannot be packed in the cargo hold. You need to make sure, therefore, that the battery compartment is detachable from the rest of the wheelchair.
Most batteries are acid batteries and must have the appropriate data sheet in order to be charged. In any case, you should inquire in advance by contacting the company to find out if our aid can be accepted.
However, our advice is to do a little research to find an institution located in your destination location from which to rent an electric wheelchair. By doing so, you will be able to travel without worries.
7. What is your budget?
After answering all the above questions, you will know how to choose the right type of wheelchair for your needs.
We at Mia Medical Italia will help you choose the power wheelchair that best fits your budget, based on all your needs!
Electric wheelchair maintenance
The best way to keep the wheelchair in perfect condition is always stated in the instructions provided by each manufacturer. Here are some general maintenance measures:
Keeping the wheelchair clean is important for several reasons: not only for aesthetic reasons, but also to prevent dust or dirt from coming into contact with the moving parts of the chair, gradually wearing it out.
If the wheelchair is not used for a long period of time or if the place where it is stored is dirty, it is advisable to keep it covered with a cloth.
Do not use chemicals to clean the seat, as they may make it slippery or deteriorate the material from which it is made. To clean it, use a cloth with lightly soapy water and dry it well.
Humidity and temperature
Avoid humid environments for your chair. Direct exposure to water or moisture can cause electrical or mechanical damage.
If the chair has been used in the rain, wipe it dry with a cloth to avoid the risk of rust. Place the chair in a dry, warm place to allow moisture to evaporate and then perform functional checks before using the chair again. Also dry the seat well to maintain the quality of the fabric.
The battery is probably the most important item for power wheelchair maintenance. With use and the passage of time, the capacity of any battery decreases, so it discharges more quickly and needs to be recharged more frequently.
It is difficult to estimate the lifespan of a battery because it depends on many factors, such as intensity of use, weight of the user, slopes, depth of each discharge, continuous or interrupted circulation, and proper charging process. Usually, however, a battery can last from six months to seven years.
Full and deep charge cycles ensure better performance and longer battery life. Keep batteries fully charged whenever possible.
Remember that batteries that are deeply discharged, not charged after each use, or only partially charged will experience accelerated wear and tear, reduced range, and shortened service life.
Wheelchair wheels wear out with time and use.
Solid wheels pose no risk of puncture, but being hard they are less able to cushion uneven ground. With use, this phenomenon will become more and more noticeable.
Pneumatic wheels, on the other hand, do not require maintenance (just check periodically that the pressure is correct). These wheels absorb shocks better and grip the ground better, making driving much more comfortable, especially when traveling long distances or having to negotiate uneven terrain, curbs, etc.
Choosing the right power wheelchair can make life much easier for those with motor problems. For this very reason, it is important to take your time to find the one that best suits your needs. Do not be in a hurry and carefully consider all the options on the market.
Do you need a consultation? We at Mia Medical Italia are here to help!