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.
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.
- 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!
- 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.
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.
- 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!
- 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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.