The popularity of power assist devices (PAD) for manual wheelchairs has exploded over the last few years. While a manual wheelchair does offer the user a good deal of independence and freedom, there are limitations when travelling long distances, navigating rough terrains and enjoying some of the spectacular outdoor vistas here in the East and West Kootenays and beyond.
For those wanting to take their sense of adventure one step further, a power-assist add-on device is the perfect wheelchair accessory. These devices can simply “clip on” to a manual wheelchair when desired, transforming it into a battery-powered conveyance. This allows users to adapt to their changing mobility needs practically on a whim with a relatively affordable investment compared to the cost of a fully powered wheelchair.
You have probably noticed the exponential growth of electric-powered bikes and scooters over the past five to seven years. While these modes of transportation are fun and inexpensive, the main reason you’re seeing all those new scooters is because of advances in lithium-ion battery technology. Lithium-ion has risen to the top of the rechargeable battery pack because today’s units can store a significant amount of energy within a small enclosure, are inexpensive to produce, charge quickly and last about as long as the Energizer Bunny. It’s today’s battery of choice not just for e-bikes and scooters but for everything from smartphones to electric cars.
Benefits of power-assist devices for wheelchairs
With a power add-on, the world is your oyster like never before. It can be the ideal solution for a variety of mobility-related ADLs (activities of daily living) such as when carrying heavy objects, grocery shopping, pushing a baby stroller or visiting a friend’s home where they have annoyingly thick carpet everywhere. It’s also the perfect accessory to blaze new recreation horizons, or simply to assist on longer excursions so you don’t burn out your arms and shoulders.
Perhaps the greatest advantage of a PAD is that if you love your existing chair but just want a little extra oomph from time to time, now you can have it all. Many individuals love the small size, maneuverability and functionality of their existing manual chair. Others don’t want to alter their posture and are already perfectly comfortable with what they have. There’s also no need to re-create your built environment when switching to a powered chair due to its greater size and higher seating position. Simply clip on the PAD and keep going with your flow.
Here are some other advantages of a wheelchair power-assist device:
Easy to use Most PADs simply attach securely to your existing wheelchair’s framework. Some are even small enough to fit in the back pocket of your wheelchair, so you can take it with you and use as desired.
Easy to manoeuvre Depending on your preferred device, units can be controlled by a frame-mounted dial, joystick, steering column, hand-held remote or even a Bluetooth-connected wristband or watch. Forward, reverse, left, right, slow down, stop… all at your fingertips.
Great for the outdoors Many devices are specially constructed to help you navigate over challenging terrains and obstacles. Go offroad and explore exciting new pathways and nature trails safely and independently, even over tough surfaces and when going up steep slopes.
Conquers crowded areas Busy streets and crowded places can be taxing for manual wheelchair users in both body and mind. Once you get familiar with your power-assisted device, you can set your mind to “cruise control” to help make these stressful moments go smoother.
Manual… but powered A power-assist device enables you to maintain the feel, posture and maneuverability of your existing manual wheelchair… with benefits. They’re sleek and stylish, and the smartly concealed designs allow you to be the focus, not the mobility device.
Types of power-assist devices for manual wheelchairs
There are a number of different innovative power-assist wheelchair options available today.
Fully powered front-mount These add-ons are designed to attach to the front and transform your manual wheelchair into a virtual three-wheeled bike. This style of PAD is the perfect complement to your everyday life, allowing you to cover greater distances effortlessly. At an average speed, you can cover two to three times the distance versus someone travelling by foot, making it even more convenient for you to run errands or commute to work. Rehasense has a range of styles for city to off-road use, the EMPULSE StreetJet is an excellent handbike and Batec Mobility also has a variety of options including models that allow the user to “pedal” with their arms if they wish.
Non-powered front-mount These simple battery-free devices are the perfect add-on for individuals who don’t need or want power assistance but want to get outdoors and go places a traditional manual wheelchair simply can’t go. The stabilizing front wheel allows you to travel across uneven surfaces like grass, gravel, cobbles and even mud with relative ease. This item is perfect for children wanting to join the rest of their class on the next outdoor school field trip. FreeWheel is a popular model that easily stores in the back of your chair in seconds; TrackWheel by Rehasense is another great option.
Rear-mount power-assist Rear-mount devices are designed to fit on the rear of your wheelchair to help power you forward. These devices typically sense the user’s propelling motion and then kick into action by providing power assistance, with the level of assistance adjustable to the individual’s unique preferences and needs. The SmartDrive is a cleverly designed unit that can be controlled from the user’s smartwatch and even comes with an app that provides useful statistics and insights. The SMOOV is another innovative model that can be controlled wirelessly and has a range of up to 20 km.
Power-assisted wheels An ingenious device featuring a self-contained electric-powered motor that you add or clip onto your existing manual wheel(s). The QUICKIE Xtender is highly recommended, as is the E.motion M25. Another innovative approach is the e-fix which includes advanced joystick control.
Stair climber You can even tackle a wide variety of stair designs with a stair climbing PAD like the Alber Scalamobil. This attachment can help you navigate staired environments that are currently not wheelchair accessible such as a friend or family member’s house, older buildings and more.
Rear-mount power-assist for attendants This innovative device is designed not for the wheelchair user but for the caregiver doing the pushing. It’s a lifesaver for those who enjoy the connection of assisting a loved one but need an extra push over long trips or when going uphill. The Empulse R20 is lightweight and is easy to fold up and store when not in use.
Whatever power-assisted device works best for you, it’s clear that this mobility innovation can certainly enable you to do more, see more and get more out of life. While a power-assisted device doesn’t magically convert a manual wheelchair into a motorized wheelchair, it provides the speed and fluid mobility of a powered wheelchair while being lightweight and portable, offering the best of both worlds.
KC Home offers a number of different PAD brands, styles and models. Contact us today and we can help you choose the power-assisted device to perfectly complement your lifestyle.