Electric Wheelchair

Complete Guide To Choosing The Best Electric Wheelchair UK

An electric wheelchair – or powered wheelchair – is an incredibly important purchase. Not only can it vastly improve your quality of life, but it can provide you with a sense of independence that may be greatly needed. With so much riding on this purchase, deciding on the wheelchair itself can feel like an incredibly high pressure decision.

At Able To Enable, we have an unmatched knowledge of electric wheelchairs and other mobility solutions. This means that we can help you to purchase the best electric wheelchair available in the UK, that is well suited to your unique needs and requirements. 

If you live near York or Harrogate, you can benefit from our help in-store; our dedicated team of mobility specialists are dedicated to helping you, in any way they can. If you live further afield, we are still committed to assisting you in your search – just contact us online or over the phone. 

We want to make sure that you are as well-informed as possible, and so we have created the complete guide to choosing the best electric wheelchair in the UK. In this article, we will be showcasing the three main kinds of electric wheelchair, as well as the factors that you should take into consideration prior to purchase.

Man driving an electric wheelchair

Different Kinds Of Electric Wheelchair In The UK

There are three different types of electric wheelchair in the UK. Each is defined by the positioning of the drive wheels, and operates differently as a result. Drive wheels are the biggest wheels, and so responsible for both gathering momentum and turning. The remaining wheels are called castors, and are there to offer stability.   

The most sensible way to choose a chair is by familiarising yourself with exactly what is currently available: rear-wheel, mid-wheel and front-wheel chairs. 

Rear-Wheel Electric Wheelchair

A rear-wheel electric wheelchair has two drive wheels at the back, and two castor wheels at the front. Due to the positioning of the wheels, the majority of the power comes from the rear.

Advantages

  • Comfort: The rear wheels are shock-absorbent, offering a smooth and safe driving experience.
  • Terrain: As the power comes from the rear, these chairs are adept at navigating difficult terrain – gravel and mud aren’t an issue! 

Disadvantages

  • Turning Radius: The downside of having large rear wheels is that they result in a large turning radius. 
  • Obstacles: The castor wheels approach obstacles first and because they are so small, some things can be almost impossible to climb without assistance.
  • Ledges: In this same vein, the castor wheels sometimes don’t have enough power to get over ledges (and indeed, some obstacles).

Example Of A Rear-Wheel Electric Wheelchair

A great example of a rear-wheel electric wheelchair is the Go Chair 2.0. It is sleek and portable, with a weight capacity of 21 stone 6lbs. 

Go Chair Electric Wheelchair

Other examples of this chair include the I Go + and the I-Go Folding Powerchair

Mid-Wheel Electric Wheelchair

A mid-wheel electric wheelchair has two drive wheels in the middle, two castor wheels in the front and two castor wheels in the back. This means that it has a total of six wheels, which is different from the other chairs on the market. 

Advantages

  • Stability: As the drive wheels are close to the chair base, and there are six wheels, these chairs are a lot more stable and it is extremely difficult for them to tip. 
  • User Friendliness: Customers often find that these chairs are highly intuitive, quickly getting to grips with operating and maneuvering. 
  • Turning Radius: Mid-wheel chairs have a 360 degree turning radius!

Disadvantages

  • Comfort: Having six wheels means that users can feel the impact of bumps more easily.
  • Terrain: While this is not the case with all mid-wheel chairs, some models can struggle on difficult terrains because they lose traction. 

Example Of A Mid-Wheel Electric Wheelchair

One of our most popular mid-wheel electric wheelchairs is the Quantum Q4. Designed for both indoor and outdoor use, it was made with manoeuvrability in mind. 

Quantum Q4 Electric Wheelchair

Other examples of this chair include the Q6 Edge 2.0 and the Pride Jazzy J600ES

Front-Wheel Electric Wheelchair

A front-wheel electric wheelchair has two drive wheels at the front, and two castor wheels at the back. The wheel positioning is the exact opposite of the rear-wheel chair, and so many of the advantages and disadvantages are flipped. 

Advantages

  • Comfort: With only four wheels, these chairs offer a smooth driving experience. 
  • Obstacles: As the large driving wheels are at the front, they encounter obstacles first. Their size and momentum make it really easy to navigate obstacles.
  • Modifications: Front-wheel chairs are easier to navigate with alternative controls, and so they are well-suited to voice, chin and finger modifications. 

Disadvantages

  • User Friendliness: Some people struggle with these chairs at first – they take some getting used to, because the movements aren’t intuitive. 

Turning Radius: Although they have a better turning radius than a rear-wheel chair, they are not well suited to tight spaces.

Summary 

It is evident that rear-wheel, mid-wheel and front-wheel electric wheelchairs each have their own advantages and disadvantages. It can be difficult to find the perfect chair (but not impossible!), which is why you need to choose a chair which most closely aligns with your needs and values. This means that you need to think carefully about your day-to-day life, and how you envision yourself using the chair. 

Different Features Of An Electric Wheelchair In The UK

If there is a specific feature that you require from your electric or powered wheelchair, that can make it significantly easier to narrow down your options. There are many reasons why you may have these features in mind, but whether it is a matter of preference or a medical necessity, knowing what you want is the first step towards getting it. We have compiled a few commonly sought-after features, which may help you to identify something that you also require from a chair. 

Padded Seating

As with most mobility solutions, comfort is key. It is likely that you will be sitting in your chair for extended periods of time and so it is important that you are not in any pain or discomfort. A padded seat can go a long way towards improving your sitting experience. Not only is it softer, but it can also offer a smoother driving experience, as it will absorb some of the rougher movements. 

Storage

Storage is really important, especially if you intend to use your electric wheelchair when shopping. There are different kinds of storage features, some of which may be more convenient than others. With basket storage, floor storage and under-seat storage, it all comes down to which feature best suits your lifestyle. If you’re unsure how much storage you will need, it’s always best to overestimate. 

Leg Room

Having enough leg room will greatly increase your comfort, and so it is not something to be overlooked. Some chairs offer less leg room because of the storage space, or lack thereof. This is one feature that you definitely shouldn’t compromise on, especially if you will be frequently moving between a wheelchair and other walking aids; you need the room to maneuver safely and smoothly. 

Portability

Some wheelchairs can be folded up, while others can be easily collapsed. This ability is hugely beneficial if you lack storage space at home or anticipate lots of travel in a vehicle. It is definitely something to bear in mind when choosing a wheelchair, as some lack any kind of portability whatsoever. If this is something that you know you will require, we suggest prioritising it in your search, as it is not a feature or modification that you can add on at a later date. 

Adjustable Back

An adjustable back enables you to change positions while sitting in your chair. This can be highly advantageous when going up or down hill, so you can brace yourself accordingly, as well as for individuals that struggle to sit in one position for long periods of time. If this is something that is important to you, it’s always worth looking for it in your future wheelchair. 

Factors To Consider When Choosing An Electric Wheelchair

There are some obvious factors that you should consider when choosing an electric wheelchair, such as price, your height and weight, and whether you can try before you buy. However, there are many other factors worth considering that you likely haven’t thought of yet. While they may not be make-or-break considerations, they are things that will significantly increase or decrease your comfort and ease, according to the chair that you select.

To help you make a fully informed choice, we have compiled a list of just some of the considerations that you should be using to evaluate your prospective powerchair. 

Do You Require A Low Or High Seat?

The height of your seat is an important factor to consider, as it will determine how easy it is to transition out of the electric wheelchair, and to complete day-to-day tasks while still in it. 

Does Your Electric Wheelchair Have A Good Turning Radius?

If you need to be able to maneuver in small or tight spaces, you will need a chair capable of doing so. On the other hand, if you will largely be using your chair in wide open spaces, this affords you greater flexibility since you can prioritise other features. 

Do You Require Alternative Controls?

Most electric wheelchairs are operated using a joystick on the arm of the chair, however it is possible to modify this according to your unique needs. Whether you require voice control, finger control or something else entirely, this is something that you can request at the beginning of your search. If alternate controls are important to you, we recommend that you purchase a bespoke chair customised to your specific requirements. 

How Long Will You Be Using Your Wheelchair Between Charges?

It is important that your wheelchair has a good battery life, capable of being on-the-go for extended periods without requiring charging. If you can’t find a chair with a suitable battery life, you may need to investigate on-board charging. 

Do You Require Any Modifications To Your Wheelchair?

Specific modifications can be added to certain kinds of electric wheelchairs. Before making any changes yourself (or having someone make them for you) it is always best to consult a professional, to avoid voiding your warranty or damaging the wheelchair.

A great alternative to modifications are mobility accessories. At Able To Enable, we offer an extensive range of wheelchair accessories, so you can rest assured that, even if you can’t find a wheelchair that ticks all of your boxes, you will be able to make improvements after the purchase.

Purchasing An Electric Wheelchair From Able To Enable

Hopefully our complete guide to choosing the best electric wheelchair in the UK has proven useful. At Able To Enable, we strive to be an invaluable source of information, so that our customers and potential customers can make knowledge-based decisions. Electric wheelchairs are a significant investment, and so it is important that you make a purchase in full confidence.

If you require further advice about electric wheelchairs, uniquely tailored to your individual needs and requirements, then please don’t hesitate to get in touch. We have a wealth of expertise in all kinds of mobility solutions, and are experts at pairing people with the right kind of wheelchair. 

With branches in York and Harrogate, you can arrange to visit our store and take advantage of the chairs that we currently have available on the floor; take one for a spin, and decide whether it is suitable for you!

Contact us today by completing our online form, and a member of our friendly, customer-focused team will get back to you swiftly. In the meantime, be sure to take a look at our extensive collection of electric or powered wheelchairs. And if you are interested in reading more informative articles about mobility solutions, our resource page is the best place to start.

Wheelchair Accessible Vehicle

8 Things You Should Know About Buying A Wheelchair Accessible Car

Buying a new car can be difficult and confusing, because there are a lot of things you need to know and a lot of factors that you need to consider. This is doubly true when buying a car with wheelchair access.

It is important that your wheelchair accessible vehicle (or, WAV) ticks as many boxes as possible, which is why we want to try and point you in the right direction, so that you know where to start looking and what you should be looking for.

Able To Enable are proud suppliers of wheelchair accessible cars, and have been providing mobility solutions throughout Yorkshire for over twenty years. Our extensive experience means that we know exactly what our customers need, and we are more than happy to share this kind of information. The most important thing to remember is that it is a limited market, so be prepared to compromise when searching for the best wheelchair accessible car for you and your needs. Some of your requirements are more important than others, and so you need to be able to prioritise. Striking that perfect balance will help you find the right car for you.

A Wheelchair Accessible Vehicle

We have compiled a list of 8 things you should know when buying an accessible vehicle. This is the perfect buyer’s guide to accessible cars, including all of our top tips and expert advice, garnered through years of experience and industry knowledge.

  • Manual Vehicle v Automatic Vehicle
  • Vehicle Size
  • Storage
  • Accessibility (including wheelchair positioning!)
  • Vehicle Adaptations
  • Multi-Purpose Vehicles
  • Safety And Quality
  • Specialist Dealerships

Manual Vehicle v Automatic Vehicle

When looking for cars with wheelchair access, you have the choice between manual and automatic transmissions. A manual car has three pedals (the accelerator, the brake and the clutch) which the driver moves between, while an automatic car changes gear by itself, according to your current speed.

While your choice is largely dictated by the preferences of the driver, it can have some influence on the vehicles that are available to you. A huge deciding factor is whether the wheelchair user will be operating the vehicle, or if they will be a passenger. This is because the adaptations that you require could change, and there aren’t as many adaptations available for manual vehicles. For example, hand controls aren’t possible on a manual vehicle but they are incredibly useful if you are a wheelchair user, because they allow the driver to accelerate and brake without using their feet. If this is something that you are interested in, you may be better suited to an automatic system.

Vehicle Size

Wheelchair accessible cars are available in numerous shapes and sizes, and this dictates the accessibility, storage, purpose and possible adaptations of your vehicle. All of these factors will be covered momentarily. When considering the size of your wheelchair accessible car, you should also consider how many seats you require and how many people that you need to transport in a comfortable, safe manner.

There are typically four sizes of vehicle available: small, medium, medium-large and extra large. This sizing should be taken with a pinch of salt, as there is no set size guide, and no firm requirements for seating or storage. You should take into consideration your current and future needs (as this is likely a car that you will keep for several years), as well as your parking options, as it should be able to fit in your garage or driveway and still allow for convenient access by all parties.

Small WAV

A small wheelchair accessible car typically fits two to three people, plus the wheelchair user or mobility scooter. They are great for general use, but the limited number of passengers can be inconvenient or inappropriate for those with a large family, or those who don’t like to be constricted to a small space.

Medium WAV

A medium wheelchair accessible car can normally accommodate three, four or five people, plus the wheelchair user or mobility scooter, depending on the seat layout. They offer more space, which is useful for outings and extra storage, although the positioning of the seats can be restrictive.

Medium-Large WAV

A medium-large wheelchair accessible car typically fits five passengers. This is a controversial vehicle size, as the additional seats means that the wheelchair user is behind the other passengers. The car or van can have a ramp or lift to aid accessibility and functionality.

Extra-Large WAV

An extra-large wheelchair accessible car does not have a set number of seats; the extra size could hold seven passengers or it could offer more internal space, allowing for greater flexibility and maneuverability than a smaller vehicle. This is a useful size if you require specialist equipment, extensive travel or further, more complex, adaptations.

Storage

Something else to consider when buying wheelchair accessible cars is the kind of storage space that is available. You will need to think about storage for both your mobility vehicle and for anything else you may need to bring with you in a car, from shopping to suitcases.

Boot storage is the most widely available kind of storage, however it is also wholly dependent on your physical capabilities. This is because you would need to be able to lift the wheelchair into the boot, and then get into the car yourself, or have someone available that is strong enough to do so for you.

A wheelchair hoist can be a convenient middleground. It relies on the wheelchair user having enough mobility to walk from the boot of the car to the passenger seat, but once there, a boot-mounted electric or hydraulic hoist will lift the wheelchair into the car.

Rooftop storage is one of the most effective kinds of wheelchair storage, especially if the wheelchair user is also the driver. The rooftop storage uses hydraulic or electric hoists that can be operated from the inside of the car, so that once you are within the vehicle you can load the wheelchair easily. A swivelling sweat can make the transition between chairs even more convenient.

Accessibility

The best wheelchair accessible cars put the needs of the wheelchair user first, and this is something that should be your priority throughout the trialling and purchasing of your new vehicle. The kind of accessibility that you require from your car depends on where the wheelchair user will be travelling within the vehicle, and whether or not they will be driving.

There are five possible wheelchair positions within a wheelchair accessible vehicle: drive from, transfer, upfront, middle and rear. The accessibility of the vehicle is largely determined by its size and shape, and so you will need to consider access, sill and vehicle height. Knowing the measurements of the door opening angle and the door opening width will also help you to decide if the vehicle is suitable for your specific wheelchair.

Drive-From Wheelchair Accessible Cars

These vehicles mean that you can operate the car while still residing in your wheelchair. The wheelchair should be locked into place using a docking station, and there are many different adaptations that can make it easy to operate, enter and exit without any assistance.

Transfer Wheelchair Accessible Cars

This vehicle allows users to transfer from their wheelchair to the driver’s seat, which means they can still operate the vehicle. Once again, there are different adaptations available to ease the transition between chairs.

Passenger-Upfront Wheelchair Accessible Cars

This car means that the wheelchair user is able to sit next to the driver, and is not restricted to the rear of the car. This is a hugely popular style because it promotes conversation and allows both passengers to engage in a more traditional travel arrangement.

Mid-Passenger Wheelchair Accessible Cars

This is the most common of its kind, wherein the wheelchair user is in the main body of the car. There may be no other seats within the vehicle, depending on its size.

Rear-Passenger Wheelchair Accessible Cars

The car requires the wheelchair user to sit behind the back seats. They are somewhat controversial, as they can make individuals feel isolated, but they are also incredibly practical, and favoured by taxi companies because of their simple functionality.

Accessibility Features

Depending on the desired location of the wheelchair user, you will require different accessibility features to allow easy manoeuvrability. Ramps, lifts and winches are all common features which promote accessibility, and can be utilised by powered wheelchairs, manual wheelchairs and mobility scooters.

Vehicle Adaptations

Wheelchair accessible vehicle adaptations ensure that all of your needs are met. Some of the most popular additional features include hand controls, left foot accelerators, pedal extensions, indicator extensions and steering spinners. These driving adaptations can be tailored to your individual requirements, so that you feel safe, comfortable and confident while driving.

Your perfect car may not come with additional accessibility features, and so it is important to ensure that they can be fitted retroactively. Whether this is possible can depend on the size, make, model and system. It is therefore best practice to consider the features that you require, and center your vehicle search around them, to ensure that you are selecting the best wheelchair accessible car for you.

Multi-Purpose Vehicles

The kind of accessible car that you need is influenced by who will be using the vehicle and the kind of journeys that you will be taking. If you are going to be travelling for long distances and long periods of time, you may need a larger vehicle to support your storage and manoeuvring needs. If you are only going to be making small trips around the local area, there are different factors to consider. The overarching purpose of your vehicle dictates the amount of seats and kind of storage you need.

Safety And Quality

It is absolutely essential that any wheelchair accessible cars that you test or purchase adhere to the highest levels of safety and quality. This is imperative both for your own health and safety, the health and safety of other road users and the validity of your car insurance. You should ensure that your vehicle has undergone a proper inspection, both inside and underneath, and that all adaptations have been checked to make sure that they are fit for purpose.

The easiest way to ensure that you are purchasing the best wheelchair accessible cars with the best safety and quality components, is to purchase from a registered specialist. This guarantees peace of mind, every time.

Specialist Dealership

The most important thing to know when buying an adapted vehicle, is where to buy it from. This is because your chosen provider can determine the safety and suitability of your car. If possible, try to ensure that you only purchase from a reputable, specialist dealership. A wheelchair accessible car is not a standard car, and shouldn’t be treated as such. Whether you want to purchase a new wheelchair accessible vehicle or a second-hand wheelchair accessible vehicle, you should go to the best.

A great example of this is buying through Able To Enable. All of our vehicles are well looked after, ex-motability vehicles, or sourced brand new for you. Part of being a specialist dealership means that we can offer a range of makes and models and dedicated servicing facilities. Our unmatched knowledge allows us to perform maintenance, inspections and examinations of specialist components, which non-specialist providers would not be able to offer.

Buying The Best Wheelchair Accessible Cars With Able To Enable

If you are currently searching for the best wheelchair accessible car, we are confident that Able To Enable will be able to help. Whether you know exactly what you are looking for, or aren’t sure on the details, a member of our professional team can help find the best solution and combination of products that could dramatically improve your current quality of life.

If you have any questions, or would like any more information, then please don’t hesitate to get in touch. Contact us today by calling us on 0190 4690 666 to speak to a member of our York team, or 0142 3880 882 to speak to a member of our Harrogate team. We are committed to offering the highest level of customer service, and the finest mobility and accessibility equipment on the market.