What to buy: Electric wheelchairs v mobility scooters

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Mobility scooters have been a common sight on the highways and byways of the UK for many years. But while electric wheelchairs have been around since the days of World War II, they are still considered a far better choice today, especially for indoor use.

With design breakthroughs offering more durable models of power chairs, they now offer a host of advantages over their larger cousins.

Here we look at some of the key areas in which electric wheelchairs are beginning to outstrip the competition:

Comfort

There is a lot to be said for the upright position offered by mobility scooters, and the Class 3 models can even be used on public roads. They are also pretty intuitive to a first-time user, with speed controllers via handlebar switches.

But what they don’t offer is the ability to customise almost every aspect in order to make a journey that little bit more comfortable.

With electric wheelchairs the seat height, angle of the backrest and the distance to the foot support can all be altered for maximum support. Even the armrests can be tweaked to make the user is position perfect for their size and posture.

One huge disadvantage of scooters is that they rely on people to have good trunk and arm strength to maintain their position comfortably over long periods of time – simply not the case in a power chair.

More compact

While some of the older models of electric wheelchairs are fairly cumbersome, the newer ones are lighter and often foldable.

The MobilityPlus+ power chair is a great example of the new generation that can be easily stowed in a car boot and don’t require a team of strong men to lift over even the smallest step.

This is particularly important when you consider the move towards smaller and more environmentally-friendly vehicles spewing fewer emissions into the atmosphere.

And these often feature smaller boot spaces than the gasoline-guzzling four-wheel drives so popular over the last two decades.

Being compact is also important when it comes to security. Mobility scooters often have to be left in large communal areas in flats where they can be targets for vandalism. Electric wheelchairs, on the other hand, can be folded and stowed in a private hallway or cupboard.

Manoeuvrability

Power chairs, by their very nature, have a much tighter turning circle which makes then far more suited for indoor use.

But it’s not just under a roof where they come into their own. That quick change of direction can also be useful outdoors on tricky terrain. And advanced technology also means that improved batteries provide longer range for electric wheelchairs – making them a much more viable choice for all-round usage.

Steering

While mobility scooters change direction via a standard set of handlebars, electric wheelchairs can be steered in multiple ways including via a joystick on one of the armrests.

Many scooter devotees would argue that their set-up makes their choice easier to negotiate for the first-time or inexperienced user.

But modern power chair joysticks are intuitive and are much for suited for prolonged use. Travelling any larger distance with both hands on handlebars can lead to discomfort and even cramp, whereas the joystick control offers a much less stressed position.

Seating options

Customise, customise, customise – and with power chairs the key changes you can easily make are the set-up and material of the seat. Deeper, more padded, different materials – you name it, the option is available to make the mobility device fit your specific needs precisely.

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