Wheelchairs are a popular mobility aid that greatly improves the lives of millions of people worldwide.
The manual wheelchair has been around for thousands of years, while the electric wheelchair is relatively new, with the first electric wheelchair being developed in the early 1950′s.
Choosing between a manual wheelchair or an electric wheelchair is an important decision that should be based upon the needs and requirements of its user.
Consider the Physical Capabilities of the User
One of the most important considerations when choosing between a manual or electric wheelchair is the physical abilities of the wheelchair user.
Using a manual wheelchair requires a lot of upper body strength and can be very tiring even for someone who is in perfect health.
In addition to having fairly good physical fitness, it is also necessary to use both arms to push a manual wheelchair.
An electric wheelchair, on the other hand, can be controlled by only using a single finger, and there are also several other alternate controls.
Alternate wheelchair controls include head-controlled wheelchairs and breath-controlled wheelchairs.
This allows even someone with greatly reduced physical capabilities to use a wheelchair.
Consider Where the Wheelchair Will Be Used
In addition to considering the condition of the wheelchair user, it is also necessary to consider where the wheelchair will be used and how far it will be driven every day.
Suppose the wheelchair is primarily going to be used around the home. In that case, a manual wheelchair might be a good choice because even though it requires a good deal of physical effort, moving between rooms does not present a very large traveling distance.
If, on the other hand, you intend to use the wheelchair away from home across a larger distance, an electric wheelchair might be a better choice.
As an example, traveling across a college campus would be much more strenuous than traveling between rooms in a house.
The per charge range of an electric wheelchair varies, but most can travel between 10 and 20 miles without being recharged.
In addition to considering how far one will be traveling in the wheelchair, it is also important to consider what type of terrain will be traveled over.
It takes much more effort to move up and down hills than to move across straight ground in a manual wheelchair.
Some electric wheelchairs are also much better choices for off-road use, although it is also possible to buy off-road wheels for manual wheelchairs.
Consider the Cost of the Wheelchair
Finally, it is also important to consider the wheelchair users’ budget when deciding between a manual wheelchair or an electric wheelchair.
There are, of course, exceptions to the rule on both sides, but typically a manual wheelchair costs significantly less than an electric wheelchair.
Usually, a quality electric wheelchair costs between $3,500 and $7,000, while a manual wheelchair costs between $300 and $1,500.
When considering cost, it is important to consider insurance programs, such as Medicare or Medicaid, which will often help offset the cost of a wheelchair.
For example, in the case of Medicare, typically, 80% of the cost of the wheelchair is covered, so this can greatly offset the expense of an electric wheelchair.