In the past, losing the ability to use one’s legs meant losing all independent mobility. This was remedied with the invention of the wheelchair, a device allowing much improved transportation. However, for many, the difficulty of using a wheelchair was still too much.
The advent of the electric wheelchair changed everything. The simplicity and ease with which one can now move around is remarkable. The electric wheelchair is the ultimate aid in mobility. However, for someone unfamiliar with the product, the acquisition of one can seem a little daunting.
It is the intention of this guide to explore the features of an electric wheelchair, and to analyse their advantages and disadvantages, to the end of informing the reader sufficiently that they may make the right choice for them. Further, the guide will examine why eBay is the optimal forum in which to shop for an electric wheelchair.
The Electric Wheelchair
The electric wheelchair was invented shortly after World War II, as a means of helping injured war veterans. Usually, the expense of an electric wheelchair is only justifiable if the concerned party would be either fatigued by or unable to propel a regular wheelchair sufficiently to allow reasonable mobility. This section of the guide will explore the different aspects of the electric wheelchair, with detailed explanations of their functions and potential benefits.
The chassis is the frame of the wheelchair; the main body. Normally, the wheelchair will sport either four or six wheels, six providing a little more stability, though the number of wheels will also depend on the type of drive system the chassis sports. The drive system is the mechanism by which the chair moves. There are four main kinds of drive system, which are detailed in the following list:
- Front Wheel Drive – the powered wheels are at the front of the vehicle. This allows for great manoeuvrability and control over the wheelchair, though sacrifices power and stability to attain these things. The front wheel drive kind of wheelchair is best suited to home use, where narrow spaces which require careful driving are the norm.
- Rear Wheel Drive – electric wheelchairs with rear wheel drive are considered the norm. They provide a decent balance between the different virtues of the electric wheelchair. They have reasonable power, are relatively stable, and allow for fair control over the chair, although they are not generally as manoeuvrable as other drive systems. They can be indoor or outdoor chairs, though often work better indoors.
- Centre Wheel Drive – using a mid-powered electric wheelchair requires the chair to be of the six-wheeled variety. The middle set of wheels are powered, while the pairs mounted at the front and back allow for both massively increased stability and turning power. The mid drive wheelchair can be more expensive, due to its slightly increased complexity. Their stability often leads to them being used as outdoors chairs, though their high manoeuvrability means they are well suited for all environments.
- All Wheel Drive – in an all wheel drive chair, every wheel is powered by the electric motor. This naturally increases the power and thus the potential distance the wheelchair is able to travel, and also the speed. The all wheel drive will also consume more energy, and will often be more expensive. In the vast majority of cases, these chairs will be used for outdoors movement.
It is worth noting that larger chairs are generally better suited for use outdoors, and vice versa. Portable chairs can be folded, and are ideal for use on public transport or in cars, or for any other long journey. Some models will feature backup power generators, built into the frame for emergency power shortages, whilst others will feature a device for mounting curbs. There are some other models, designed for all-terrain use or stairway climbing, though these are very rare.
Whichever of these models or features you seek, eBay is the perfect place to look. It has a tremendous selection, and makes finding the required product quick and easy.
The battery is of absolutely crucial importance to the electric wheelchair; it provides the power to the electric motor necessary for movement. The batteries are rechargeable, and are capable of holding anywhere between 12 and 80 hours worth of charge at any one time. Often, when a battery is incapable of carrying a full day’s worth of charge, a second battery is included to ensure that the chair does not lose power at an inconvenient location. The majority of electric wheelchairs will feature an on-board charger, which can plug into most mains outlets, allowing the chair to be charged at any location which is connected to the mains. There are two types of battery cell: wet and dry. Dry batteries are usually the preferred choice to power electric wheelchair motors, as wet-cell batteries must be removed from the chair prior to air travel, which can be a major inconvenience for travellers.
In the vast majority of cases, an electric wheelchair will be controlled using a joystick that is mounted on the chair’s arm. This is a straightforward yet effective way of driving, as the controls are intuitive and uncomplicated. There may also be a few other buttons on the control panel, controlling such factors as sensitivity or which particular mode the chair may be operating in. However, in certain special cases, using an arm-mounted joystick control may be impractical for the wheelchair user. In these instances, there are other options, including a control mechanism that reacts to breathing and blowing, and a remote control operated by another party.
The basic kind of electric wheelchair seat is similar to those used by most regular wheelchairs, consisting of material slung between the posts of the chair. However, on electric wheelchairs many forms of more comfortable padding are available, including cushions, backrests, headrests and footrests. In special cases, electric wheelchairs will be able to recline, allowing more comfortable seating, and distributing pressure evenly throughout the body.
Electric wheelchairs can be specifically designed to operate effectively in either indoors or outdoors environments, and in some instances both. The following is a brief summary of the features to expect from each type:
- Indoors – indoors electric wheelchairs will usually be both narrow and short, allowing for easy navigation in cramped spaces. The chair is less stable outdoors, and the tyres are normally smooth, minimising damage or markings upon the floor of the house.
- Indoor/Outdoors - these chairs will again be relatively small in design. However, they are typically more powerful, allowing for greater speed and distance. They also may have a device installed for the mounting of kerbs. Whilst suitable for pavement and house use, hybrid electric wheelchairs should not be taken on or off road.
- Outdoors - outdoors electric wheelchairs are large and sturdy, with thick wheels for traction, powerful motors for mobility, and a large wheelbase to help with stability and comfort. These chairs are impractical indoors, but allow movement outdoors much more easily. Conclusion
It was the intention of this guide to analyse the various aspects of the electric wheelchair, with the hopes of informing the reader about them sufficiently to allow them to make an educated choice. Further, the guide intended to demonstrate why eBay was the ideal place to buy one. Electric wheelchairs are categorised by the following features:
- Drive System
- Intended use
The electric wheelchair is an excellent device for providing mobility to those who were previously unable to attain it, and eBay is an excellent way to buy one.