Did you know that 1.5% or about 3.6 million Americans over the age of 15 use a wheelchair to get around? Do you have a condition that requires the use of a wheelchair?
Have your wheelchair needs changed? Do you feel limited in your daily activities due to problems with your wheelchair? The troubles you’re facing might be due to an improper wheelchair wheel configuration.
Finding the right wheelchair wheel configuration could be the key to optimizing your independence. Here, we will provide information about different wheel drive systems, and describe how these systems can impact your day-to-day activities.
It’s important that you understand the options available, so let’s learn about how wheelchair wheel positions and drives can enhance your life.
Complex Rehab Chairs
Complex rehab powered wheelchairs offer a broad choice of features to meet your mobility needs. The goal is to find a chair that adapts to your unique requirements to achieve an independent lifestyle. The chair should provide medical comfort as well as enhance your activities of daily living.
The various models offer a choice of speeds, seats, colors, and heights. Some can tilt, recline, and iLevel. They also offer models that require minimal cognitive and physical input for operation.
Wheelchair Wheel Configuration
Choosing the correct wheelchair wheel configuration greatly impacts your function. Three power drive options to choose from include front, rear, and center. Each type offers a different driving experience.
Different wheel drives determine the wheelchair’s turning radius. This impacts your ability to navigate through doorways, around corners, and other obstacles. Consider your daily activities and physical structures when choosing your wheelchair.
Wheelchair Front Wheels
Front-wheel drive chairs use the front wheels to pull the chair. The front wheels tend to be larger and have two large casters located behind the user. Some chairs also have two small wheels in front of the drive wheel to decrease tipping.
This can offer an advantage when moving over low obstacles without interference from the footplate. There’s also less impact to the person when traveling over uneven ground. Clients who need varied lower extremity positioning options benefit from the elevated front.
The front-wheel-drive chairs offer a relatively small turning radius. They also provide improved maneuverability over softer terrain.
At times, anti-tip wheels can cause interference with activities. They can make transfers more difficult. This occurs because the casters increase the distance between the wheelchair and the transfer destination.
The highest weight distribution usually lies over the drive wheels. This is often a benefit for heavier individuals. Yet, this can also cause the chair to be less stable when moving down a slope.
The back wheels sometimes fishtail if the person is driving at a higher rate of speed. This occurs because the weight is more forward. Users may also notice some problems with the steering.
Wheelchair Rear Wheels
Rear-wheel drive wheelchairs tend to offer more stability on varied terrain. They move well on slopes and have more control at higher speeds. It is a good option for those who travel outside on a regular basis.
The rear-wheel drive pushes the wheelchair. It also causes the chair to have the biggest turning radius of the different models.
However, it may impact accessibility too. It can be more difficult to get through doors and move around corners and other obstacles.
The front wheels may also interfere with the footrest as they pivot during turns. If the footrest is in a low position, the casters may get caught.
If you use a manual wheelchair, the correct rear wheel adjustment is key. This can impact the ease of propulsion.
Be sure that you can reach the wheel hub with the tip of your middle finger when your arm is straight. Your elbow should have about a 100 to 120-degree angle when your hand is on the hand rim.
Make sure your center of gravity is distributed properly over the rear wheel hub. Placing the weight center in front of the wheel hub creates a more passive, stable configuration for moving forward.
When the center of gravity is behind the wheel hub, it’s less stable, but desirable for more active users. This configuration provides less arm effort and a more efficient stroke.
Center Wheel Drive
Center or mid-wheel drive wheelchairs place the drive wheel under the user’s pelvis. These models offer the smallest footprint and turning radius. Many users say that this style offers a more intuitive feel since you’re turning on your own center.
For those with complex rehab chairs, special features are now built into all center wheel drive models. They prevent the chair from tilting forward or backward when starting and stopping. Another feature pushes the center drive wheel down when moving up or down inclines.
This additional technology has increased the stability of these chairs. Yet, this type of wheelchair still tends to have more trouble with aggressive outdoor terrain.
Are You in the Market for a Complex Power Wheelchair?
It’s important to research different models and features before purchasing a wheelchair. This article has provided information focused on different wheelchair wheel configurations.
Freedom Mobility Center, Inc. is a locally owned and operated company that opened its doors over 16 years ago. We’ve become the largest independent complex power wheelchair provider in North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and Virginia. We also offer other power mobility devices.
We are proud to maintain accreditation through The Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations. This allows us to offer power wheelchairs and complex rehab chairs ordered by a physician.
We are ready to help you find a chair that will best suit your individual needs. Schedule your free in-home assessment today.