Courtesy of ScootersNChairs.com
Wheelchairs are mobility tools that help people who have difficulty walking or who can no longer walk at all achieve greater independence. The most obvious difference between a manual wheelchair and an electric one is that an electric power wheelchair doesn’t require that you have tremendous upper body strength or someone to push you around in it. That said, the differences between the two types go far beyond this simple comparison.
No one wants to rely on a wheelchair for a temporary or permanent length of time. If you or a love one have reached a point though where you must use a wheelchair, review the information in this comparison guide to help you make an informed decision.
A manual wheelchair offers less mobility than an electric one. These wheelchairs aren’t great for all day or long-distance movement. Anyone who has incredible strength and durability eventually tires while either trying to turn the large rear wheels and maneuver the chair and their own body weight or maneuver and push the chair and the weight of the person sitting in it from behind. On the other hand, electric wheelchairs feature a battery, motor and other parts to make them self-propelled and entirely drivable with little effort. The person sitting in the chair simply moves a joy stick. These wheelchairs are a fantastic solution for anyone who doesn’t have enough upper body strength or a caregiver who can push them. Electric power wheelchairs also make it easier for users to travel to locations near a home or office without a car and up and down hills or around curves without fear of losing strength and control.
Since electric chairs are often designed for long-term mobility, they also typically feature more padding than manual wheelchairs. If a person has a painful chronic condition, they might prefer an electric wheelchair because it offers a softer and more comfortable, thickly-padded seat. A manual chair usually features thinner seat and back padding so that the chair is easier to collapse and transport. Additionally, electric designs have evenly-distributed wheels that move more smoothly along level surfaces. Some electric-powered wheelchairs even feature all-terrain wheels for uneven surfaces. All electric designs reduce the jarring movements that typically occur when someone tries to force a manual chair to move in a particular direction.
Many people choose manual wheelchairs because they’re less expensive than electric wheelchairs. A powered wheelchair has a lot more parts and an electrical system that can break down at any time from something as simple as a dead battery, faulty wire or circuit board or even a lightning strike. Some models have complex systems that require expensive future software or hardware updates. A manual wheelchair simply has a seat, back, handles, arms, leg rests and wheels. As a result, an individual or their insurance company pays a lot more for an electric chair mobility option upfront and during maintenance and repair scenarios than for a manual one.
When comparing mobility products, it’s fairly obvious that manual wheelchairs are easier to transport in vehicles than electric wheelchairs. A manual chair is lightweight and typically folds or collapses in a way that makes it fit well in most standard-sized automobile trunks. An electric wheelchair requires either a special van or large headroom vehicle that features a lift or ramp if the user wants to go somewhere on their own or travel with someone else. Some people use an electric wheelchair at home and a manual one when traveling with a caregiver.
Battery-powered robotic leg braces and exoskeletons have become the next best potential alternative to wheelchairs for people who suffer from leg paralysis. These mobility products are still in early development and can cost tens of thousands of dollars. Automobile manufacturers have also come up with new vehicle designs that make it possible for wheelchair users to simply roll into their cars and drive away while still seated without depending on lifts, ramps or trunk storage.
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