When you receive a new electric wheelchair or power chair, the first thing you want to do is get in and go. You want to test out your new set of wheels and enjoy your restored mobile independence. As you ride your electric wheelchair, you will get accustomed to how it drives. Like, how it handles turns, and overall, how it maneuvers. There are many things to take into consideration when riding around in your new electric wheelchair. With some customer feedback and research, EasyGo Mobility has put together a list of 6 tips for driving an electric wheelchair.
1. General Considerations
The speed, turning radius, width, and length of your electric wheelchair should always be taken into consideration. These factors come into play when coming to a full stop or trying to complete any turns. We’ll get into these soon.
Similar to driving a car, you should be checking all your blind spots. Especially the ground and your lower surroundings. Make sure you’re looking behind you before you back up. If you have a horn or indicator, use it. Even if no one is behind you, there may be somebody around the corner you don’t see who has no idea you’re about to back up. So, your horn is a great tool.
If you need to get up from your chair, fold up your footplate. This will allow you enough room in front of you to safely stand and move away from and around your chair. Also, ensure you have enough room around you if you need to fold or unfold your chair. Having a general idea of safety and driving will take you and your wheelchair a long way!
2. Consider the Length and Width of your Wheelchair
You can sometimes forget how long and wide your electric wheelchair is. While most electric wheelchairs have no issues going through standard doorways, it is still good to consider your angle when coming through a doorway. Make sure you are straight to avoid bumping. And, don’t get too close to the doorframe or you could end up bumping and hurting your hand.
Try to avoid making any turns until you have made sure the full length of your chair is through the doorway. And that there are no obstacles in your way. You also want to be aware of the width as you drive down narrow hallways. Knowing the length also helps when backing up.
As mentioned previously, it’s a good idea to look behind you as you back up. This will ensure you don’t back into anything or anyone. Overall, take the width and length of your electric wheelchair into consideration. And, make sure you have sufficient room to move all around your wheelchair. It can take some practice before you are spacially aware of your wheelchair’s size. So, don’t get discouraged if you have a few bumps along the way.
3. Understand Your Turning Radius
You must also consider your turning radius. Depending on the model of the wheelchair you have, the turning radius will be different. And, is just as important as anything else on this list. The turning radius defines how much space you need to make a turn. When turning in your chair, it is necessary to ensure there is sufficient room for your wheels, handles, armrests, footplate, basket, or anything that you have sticking out of your wheelchair. If you do not have enough room to turn, simply reverse and don’t go forward unless you know there is sufficient room and your path is clear of obstacles.
4. Your Weight
Your weight also plays a factor in driving your chair. Depending on your electric wheelchair and regardless of the weight capacity, your weight can still affect the performance of your power chair. Your weight can affect how quickly the chair accelerates, the top speed, how quickly it reaches its top speed, and most importantly, how quickly it comes to a full stop once the brake engages. Weight also accelerates how fast wear and tear can occur. While you may be within weight capacity for your wheelchair, your weight could be putting additional strain on the motors shortening their life expectancy.
The same goes for the battery. If the battery needs to work harder to accommodate additional weight on the chair, it will lose power a little faster requiring it to be charged sooner. The tread on your wheels can also be affected by your weight. This is because extra weight will cause the tires to turn harder on the ground wearing them down more quickly. Ensure you keep your weight at capacity or less than the capacity supported by your wheelchair to ensure it lasts as long as possible.
5. Brakes and Stopping Distance
Despite the stopping distance reported by the manufacturer, you should do your testing on the brakes. Find a safe spot where you can test out the brakes and stopping distance of your chair. This helps give you a good idea of how soon to let go of your joystick to allow sufficient time and space for a safe stop. Use a stopwatch and tape measure or ruler to measure how long it takes, both in time and distance, for your chair to stop. Do this at all speeds. If you feel are going too fast to stop before hitting something, you should try putting your chair into reverse. This stops the motor from accelerating the chair forward and can help stop your chair faster.
The last tip for driving an electric wheelchair is to understand your speed. It is usually best to change the speed to your preference and depending on where you will be driving your chair. You may find that a lower speed works better indoors. Going at a lower speed indoors avoids obstacles and ensures you get around your home safely. It helps when entering a room or making a turn. Higher speeds are usually best outdoors or in larger areas where you have more room to move with fewer obstacles. As long as your ground clearance will allow it, higher speeds outdoors will also get you over small obstacles such as little cracks and bumps.
As previously mentioned, testing your speed also gives you a chance to test the brakes. See how long it takes to come to a full stop when you let go of the joystick and the brake engages. Doing this at all speeds will give you a great idea of when to stop wherever you are.
Driving an EasyGo
EasyGo power chairs live up to the “Easy” in the name. Not only do they fold and unfold in under 30 seconds, but they also come fully assembled and ready to go right out of the box. They are lightweight enough to lift and load into your vehicle and have been reported by customers as being one of the easiest and most convenient power chairs to use. EasyGo power chairs are just over 2 ft wide, making them compact enough to easily drive through standard doorways. With a tight turning radius of 28.3 inches, EasyGo power chairs turn smoothly and effortlessly. They also have a horn button on the joystick panel that allows you to let everyone know you are coming through. Once the brake is engaged by letting go of the joystick, EasyGo power chairs come to a full stop within 39 inches or less of when you let go. EasyGo power chairs can travel up to 15 miles on a single battery charge at speeds up to 3.7 MPH, which is a little faster than it sounds. The Standard model power chair weighs 51 lbs. including the battery and holds a max weight of 250 lbs. The bestselling Elite model power chair weighs 56 lbs. with the battery and holds a max weight of 264 lbs. Driving an EasyGo power chair truly is easy.
Driving an electric wheelchair involves more than just getting in and going. There are many factors to consider in how to safely drive your electric wheelchair. Considering and being mindful of these factors as you drive will ensure safe trips with no accidents. Make sure you check all your surroundings, let people know that you are coming through, and ensure you are traveling at a safe speed where a sudden stop will not be a problem. We hope these tips help you become a better electric wheelchair driver. We wish you all safe driving and thank you for choosing EasyGo Mobility.