Manual vs. Electric Wheelchairs: Which Should You Choose?

April 20, 2016 | 8:00 am | By Pants Up Easy

Manual vs. electric: a classic battle as old as time. Normally, this is an easy decision – the only reason it’s a decision at all is because of money. Whenever we come up with some sort of manual tool, an electric model can’t be far behind. This is true of razors, air pumps, aerators, toothbrushes, lawnmowers, etc. And in almost every case, the electric version is easier to use, smoother and more effective – but also more expensive.

And I’d be lying if I said cost wasn’t a major factor here. Which type of wheelchair should you choose? The first way to determine that is to check your pocketbook. How much do you want to spring on your new wheelchair?

Insurance will cover a manual wheelchair; probably not an electric one

Even Medicare will allow you to get a wheelchair, if you need it, but it’s probably going to be a manual one. Therefore, if you want electric power under you, you’d better be prepared to pay for it. Although some folks qualify for coverage of power chairs, it’s not common. It’s a complicated process (which you can read about here), but basically, your doctor has to show your insurance company or Medicare that you absolutely need the power wheelchair. But unless you’re at a very advanced age or have very specific needs, I wouldn’t count on it.

How much of an arm workout would you like?

This may seem like a silly way of putting it, but think about it: how much more work are your arms getting now? You’re relying on them much more frequently, and with a manual wheelchair, you’ll be relying on them all the time. So unless you have someone constantly present to push you around, that’s something to consider.

Your strength is also a factor. Can you propel yourself up a ramp? A hill? What about just over the threshold to get into the house? If you can’t reliably maneuver yourself around or over obstacles, then you should consider an electric chair.

Are you interested in wheelchair activities?

It’s important for those in wheelchairs to continue to socialize, leave the house, engage in recreational activities – essentially, live a full and well-rounded life. And it can be really helpful and fun to engage with other folks in wheelchairs, to find some camaraderie around a shared life experience. So why not consider some wheelchair activities? There are leagues and organizations for wheelchair basketball, softball, tennis and even rugby.

What does this have to do with the wheelchair you pick? Well, if you choose an electric one, you’re going to miss out on the chance to condition yourself for these activities. Plus, you have to go manual for them, anyway. Why not get help yourself out by choosing a manual wheelchair for your daily life?

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