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Electric vs. manual wheelchair

A wheelchair is literally a chair with wheels, which is used when walking becomes difficult or impossible due to illness, disability or injury. The most common distinction is between electric or manual.

Manual wheelchairs are those that a user must move themselves, without the help of a battery. There are a host of options with ergonomic, and lightweight designs. One can choose from one of the two:

  • Self-propel which the user can propel himself with his limbs or
  • Companion propel which needs a person to push you.

Electric wheelchairs are the ultimate mobility products that run on battery. The power significantly increases the freedom of the users along while adding comfort and reliability.

Some wheelchair users might use a power chair as the main means of mobility while keeping a manual one as a backup. Then there are users who do not regularly use a wheelchair at home but need to use it while traveling, especially if it is long distance or over a difficult terrain. Manual wheelchairs offer portability while electric wheelchairs offer independence. Wheelchair users have to decide between the two, which could be a difficult decision to make.

However, one could make a choice depending on the following considerations:

  • Needs: Need for a wheelchair is determined in two ways – one by a user’s own understanding of his needs and secondly by recommendation of a physiotherapist who can assess the need and determine whether manual or electric wheelchairs would fulfill the requirements.
  • Assembling the wheelchair: Chair that can be taken apart or folded will be easier to load onto a bus or a car, and hence will offer more convenience. If putting it together requires some additional equipment, then also it is a fair compromise for someone who prefers both mobility and portability.
  • Lifestyle: The choice of electric or manual chair depends largely on your lifestyle whether it is the countryside or a city, a house or an apartment. It also depends on the kind of activities that you participate in, how you go there and how often. The strength and ability of your body to maneuver a manual chair is also a very crucial factor to be considered. Then again a power chair requires your vehicle to be fitted with a lift.
  • Location of use: Most developed countries are more likely to have infrastructure that is easily accessible to an electric chair such as lifts on buses, sidewalks with ramped curbs etc. but this may not be the case in developing nations. Charging wheelchair batteries may not be possible in remote rural areas. Heavy electric wheelchairs are useful on a difficult terrain while a manual wheelchair might be easy to lift on high curbs.
  • Repair issue: The wheelchair might get damaged in transit. Consider whether repair is available in the city to which you are traveling and how easy it is.
  • Price factor: Ensure that you go through all the price ranges if you plan to do a lot of touring or riding in a hilly terrain. For every manual device that we have, there is always an electric one which is easier to use and more effective, but also more expensive. Check the pocket factor before deciding.

In order to select the right wheelchair, one should decide and research the category, model, and price that are in tandem with lifestyle and mobility conditions. At present, there are nearly 1.5 to 2.0 million wheelchair users in the US. There are both kinds of chairs available with major technology changes in both electric and manual ones. Electric-powered wheelchair seems to be more popularly progressing, but significant issues remain to be addressed.

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