Powered wheelchairs can vastly improve your quality of life. If you have been struggling to get outdoors and socialise, or regain your independence, powered wheelchairs – designed for outdoor use – can help you continue to do the things you enjoy. However, choosing the right powerchair for wheelchair travel can prove challenging – especially if you are hoping to spend a number of hours in the chair over a small period. However, we’re sharing what to look for when assessing powered wheelchairs for outdoor use.
Rear wheel drive powered wheelchairs
As the name implies, rear wheel drive powered wheelchairs have two sets of wheels – one pair at the front, with larger wheels at the back. The back wheels of the motorised wheelchair are responsible for propelling the chair, with the weight-bearing wheels also enhancing the stability of the chair.
When it comes to outdoor use, the rear wheel drive powered wheelchairs are extremely stable, evenly distributing the weight of the user across all four wheels. Therefore, this type of powered wheelchair provides more security when travelling outdoors – particularly if going over uneven terrain or attempting to climb any obstacles during your journey. The wheel positioning also allows for a greater turning radius and better handling while outdoors. Alternatively, mid wheel drive powered wheelchairs are more suited for indoor accessibility.
Folding electric wheelchairs
Wheelchair travel is greatly improved with folding electric wheelchairs – especially for those that regularly use trains or even planes. If you are looking for ease of travel with powered wheelchairs, it’s worth trialling folding wheelchairs with your local suppliers. Similar to the rear wheel drive powered wheelchairs, folding powerchairs are of the same quality and durability, but offer more compact options.
Speaking of travelling on planes, folding electric wheelchairs offer more flexibility when travelling. For instance, powerchairs are not allowed into the passenger cabin of the plane, but must be stored in the cargo. If your chair does not match the height and width requirements, you will not be able to board. Therefore, folding electric wheelchairs can enhance travel experiences when flying. However, you must present the airline workers with proper instructions as to how your powerchair folds. It’s also worth noting that additional accessories and customisations may require more disassembly.
More information on flying with powered wheelchairs can be found here.
Accessories can greatly enhance comfort when travelling, enabling you to sit in the chair for longer periods of time. We suggest speaking to your suppliers regarding the accessories needed for wheelchair travel – particularly if you also have other long-term conditions. For instance, elevating leg rests allow people with heart conditions, such as Edema, to travel on trains of certain distances.
Recline and tilt options can also vastly improve independence and the ability to get outdoors without assistance. For those who are travelling great distances and do not have the mobility to relieve pressure, tilt in space can help substantially reduce the risk of pressure sores. As an additional bonus, this will also aid in improving and regulating posture and minimising muscle strain.
Choosing a wheelchair ramp can be an overwhelming business as you need to consider a ramp that best suits your needs. You need to consider whether to opt for a portable ramp or permanent one for the home. Similarly, where will you be storing the ramp? Will you be loading the motorised wheelchairs into vehicles or accessing the home? However, the single most important question when choosing a ramp is to know your ‘load height’, which will determine the length of your ramp.
When travelling outside with powered wheelchairs, you must be careful when attempting to climb obstacles and uneven terrain. Try to avoid speed bumps as this could cause unnecessary damage to the chair. Similarly, travelling through mud and particularly wet terrain can also cause damage. If you do travel through mud in powered wheelchairs, you must clean the wheels to ensure the chair is always stored in good condition.
The practicalities of outdoor wheelchair travel should also be considered – especially for longer journeys. We advise charging the battery of your wheelchair at night, ensuring it is stored next to a power source. Similarly, do not allow the battery to continually run down as this can reduce the longevity of the batter, which, typically, need replacing in 12-18 months. If you do travel to a hotel or abroad, always highlight your needs to staff and make sure there is a reliable power source in the room.
Storage must also be considered when travelling outdoors as powered wheelchairs are, generally, heavy by their nature. If you do need to store your motorised wheelchair outside, keep it in a safe place and under a cover to ensure there is no damage to the electronics.
You can find more information on the practical considerations of powered wheelchairs here.
Ultimately, there is a vast range of wheelchair tips for travelling outdoors. We suggest you speak to your local wheelchair supplier, or even contact NHS wheelchair services regarding your position, for advice on the most suitable powerchairs.