Believe it or not, finding the perfect wheelchair is not too different from the tale of Goldilocks and the Three Bears. That’s because you’ll need to explore a few types to find the fit that’s “just right”.
Electric wheelchairs strike the perfect balance between mobility and self-sufficiency, helping you get around with ease. But before you go shopping, you’ll have to consider a few important factors, either for yourself or the person you care for.
In this blog, we’ll outline the three steps you need to know to choose the right wheelchair.
Step 1: Consider daily mobility needs
Electric wheelchairs (or power wheelchairs) are perfect for users seeking independence and ease of use, though the type you choose depends on how far and where you travel day-to-day.
There are three options available to suit various user needs: indoor only, indoor/outdoor, and outdoor/indoor. You can see the difference between these wheelchair types below.
For people who spend the majority of their time inside, an indoor electric wheelchair is a perfect fit. One battery charge will last up to 15kms of travel which is adequate for general movement around the home.
A quality indoor wheelchair like KARMA’s Ergo Nimble should provide features such as:
- Small wheels (10-12 inches diameter) for maneuvering confined spaces
- Capped top speed for safe driving indoors
- The ability to overcome obstacles of up to 5cm in height
However, for those regularly on the go, you may prefer a wheelchair built for longer-distance travel.
An indoor/outdoor electric wheelchair is the best choice for travel up to 20kms per charge. In other words, this style is nimble enough to get around indoors while reliably going the distance.
For example, KARMA’s newly upgraded Blazer wheelchair has a sturdy narrow wheelbase and thoughtfully designed frame, providing agility whether inside or outside. You can also expect:
- Larger wheels (12-14 inches diameter) for handling varied terrain
- Faster driving speeds of up to 10km/h
- To confidently traverse obstacles of up to 7.5cm
Last, but not least, is the outdoor/indoor wheelchair – an excellent option for lovers of the outdoors. This type provides the best stability, shock absorption, and comfort on long journeys.
Because it’s made for endurance, the features offer a big upgrade including:
- Large 14-inch wheels for stability over obstacles and uneven terrain
- A broader base that ensures user safety at faster speeds
- A sizeable long-lasting battery to power long-distance travel
A great example of a high-quality outdoor/indoor model is KARMA’s Saber wheelchair. It provides superior endurance and performance as it’s road-tested for travel over 1,000kms!
Step 2: Select the right level of support
Now you’ve selected the right wheelchair type, it’s time to choose a seating system matched to the user’s comfort and adjustability needs.
KARMA offers three levels of support so users can find the one that fits them best, ranging from basic, adjustable, and highly configurable support.
The adjustability of the seat depends on what type of support the user needs. Source: KARMA Medical
The simplest seating system available for KARMA power wheelchairs is the Captain Seat. It’s comfortable and shock absorbent, and available with manual recline so the user can reposition themselves. However, they need to have trunk control to be able to return themselves to an upright position.
If the user needs a seat with some degree of adjustment, then the Sling Seat is a great option. The Sling Seat has flexible seat depth and power tilt functions, made with easy repositioning and pressure prevention in mind. This helps the user get comfortable without the help of a caregiver.
You can also add purpose-made wheelchair cushions and backrests to customize the support if desired.
The Rehab Seat is highly configurable, making it ideal for users who need a range of positioning options as well as maximum support. The Rehab Seat can even be fitted for pediatric users with special needs or progressive diseases.
Step 3: Choose suitable power functions
Your final step involves determining the functions required by the user to change their position. In any case, the most suitable power functions depend on their mobility challenges and independence.
You can equip your KARMA electric wheelchair with these functions which correspond with the images below:
- Reclining while seated
- Reclining and tilting with leg support
- Tilting up into a standing position
- Vertical elevation while seated
Please note, it’s important to discuss these functions with a doctor or therapist so as to not risk any injuries.
Want an in-depth guide to the different types of power functions?
Check out our blog Choosing Power Seat Functions to help you decide.
There is one final consideration on choosing an electric wheelchair: every country has its own reimbursement system which may influence the type you can purchase. However, a solid understanding of what the user needs, their budget, and the types of electric wheelchairs available should help you find the perfect fit.
Summing it all up
Choosing the right wheelchair is extremely important for the ongoing wellbeing, comfort, and safety of the user. With this handy guide, you’ll be well-informed about what to look out for when shopping for a quality electric wheelchair.
If you’re ready to find your perfect chair, you can use the summary chart below or request help from a KARMA representative.