On this page are some of the latest developments in powered wheelchair technology, and lower down there is a range of general information about powered wheelchairs.
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Power Pack Add-Ons (convert a manual chair to a powered one)
This includes power assistance for self-propelling, power packs to assist a carer, stair climbing power add-on and power trike add-on, to convert a manual chair into a powered three wheeler.
To explore the different components of a power chair, visit Powered wheelchair components and features
or, you can download a PDF with all the information – Choosing a powered wheelchair
If you are considering a powered wheelchair for the first time, there are a number of factors that need to be taken into account, and it is important that you try before you buy – either by making an appointment at your local Disabled Living Centre or by taking advantage of the home demonstration facility offered by many suppliers.
The prize-winning Atigra (left) is a mid-wheel powerchair, which has been designed to be easily configurable, using just a few tools.
It can be adjusted with the user seated, making it easy to ensure that all the elements are set to suit them exactly.
The chassis benefits from patented ATR suspension, which gives a comfortable ride, even over the sort of undulating ground that is traditionally a problem for mid-wheeled chairs. It has powerful 300 W motors to cope with challenging terrain.
The c-max stairclimbing wheelchair (right) is a specialised chair that will overcome virtually all obstacles, around the home or outdoors. Its compact dimensions and foldable footrest make it suitable for use on winding staircases and in buildings with narrow doorways: many users find it an ideal way of accessing an upstairs bathroom, for example.
Little physical effort is required from the carer to operate the c-max, which can carry a maximum user weight of 25 stone (160 kg).
Users of manual wheelchairs, whether self-propelled or attendant-assisted, can sometimes do with some help – and this is increasingly available in the form of add-on power units. In this way, you can retain the advantages of a manual chair, while getting extra assistance, depending on the system chosen, for long journeys, hills, rough terrain…
Most power packs are designed to be used with most manual wheelchairs – but you really do need to check before you buy!
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Power assistance for self-propelling
You can add power to self-propelling wheelchairs with a clever wheel-mounted system, such as the one shown on the right.
The motors are mounted in the wheel hubs, and activated by pushing the handrims, so the user propels their chair in the normal way, but with extra power at their disposal, making the system intuitive and easy to use.
Batteries are rechargeable, of course, and the power is variable, so that you can have more when you need it – to go uphill, perhaps, – and less for when you are just moving around indoors.
The system can be retro-fitted to most manual chairs, so you can continue to use a wheelchair that has been adjusted to suit you.
Power assistance for the carer
All-in-one power packs that fit onto the back of the frame of most manual wheelchairs can be attached and detached very quickly, once the holding bracket has been fitted.
They enable the carer to push the wheelchair with less effort, allowing longer journeys or more difficult terrain to be tackled. The maximum speed is between about 2 and 4 mph, and the drive is controlled by the carer using a control that clips to one or other of the push handles.
The unit shown on the left has twin drive wheels for greater traction, and includes reverse as well as forward propulsion. It is suitable for users up to 21 stone.
An alternative to the rear-mounted power pack is a wheel replacement system, such as the SD Motion Drive (right). This system can be controlled from the rear push handles, or alternatively, by the wheelchair user, employing a joystick.
Sophisticated units like these at the top end of the market, have additional features, such as reverse gear. Unlike the majority of rear-mounted power packs, those mounted in the wheel hubs can remain in place when a chair is folded for transportation.
Whatever system you choose, add-on power packs are not intended for full-time use, but rather as an occasional assistance. A power wheelchair or scooter is probably a more suitable choice if you need the power all the time.
And bear in mind that battery ranges are affected by factors such as the weight of the user, the roughness of the ground and steepness of hills – you don’t want to find yourself without power just when you need it most!
Assistance with stair climbing
For assistance specifically with stairclimbing, an add-on such as the S-max (left) could be ideal.
This unit has been designed to work with virtually any attendant-operated wheelchair, once it has been fitted with the right connecting bracket, and will enable one person transport a user in their wheelchair up or down stairs.
Depending on factors such as the weight of the wheelchair and user, height of steps, etc, the stairclimber will tackle up to 300 steps on one charge. It can be fitted and uncoupled quickly and easily, and used on any sort of floor covering without damage.
Convert your wheelchair into a powered handcycle
If you fancy powering your way across the countryside, a robust unit that converts almost any rigid manual wheelchair into a powered hand cycle could be the answer. The simple docking system is permanently mounted to the wheelchair, and the unit can then be connected and removed in seconds. It is very light, adding about one kilogram to the weight of the chair.