In my previous blog, I discussed the benefits of power mobility, such as independent repositioning and the ability to customize a chair to meet a client’s specific needs. In part two, I discuss how power mobility provides a client with greater access and control.
Access to More Environments
As we all know life is not a flat, tiled surface. Individuals have the desire and need to access as many environments as they can. Two features that are essential to these access goals are suspension and tracking technology. Suspension is a required feature on the higher end (group 3 and group 4) power wheelchairs. This feature is often downplayed but is key to the person’s quality of life and tolerance of utilizing the equipment. Suspension absorbs the jolting and vibratory forces on the wheelchair and the client. It allows the individual to maneuver over a variety of terrains and optimizes access to environmental transitions. This benefits the client by supporting their postural control and contact with various support devices, preserves access to the drive control device, helps manage spasticity/hypertonicity, minimizes pain/fatigue, and can reduce fear of accessing various environments.
Tracking technology is a feature available on power wheelchair motors that interfaces with the control module of the chair, allowing the speed of each drive wheel to change in relation to each other. This helps the client maintain a straight path and compensate for discrepancies in the terrain. This feature is of particular importance to those who utilize switch drive controls (see above) for the operation of the power wheelchair. This technology increases safety and reduces fatigue by reducing the number of times that a person must activate the drive control in order to stay on a straight path.
Control of the Environment
According to the World Health Organization, the definition of assistive technology (which includes power wheelchairs) is “any product, instrument, equipment, or technology adapted or specifically designed for improving function of a disabled person.” Power wheelchairs help compensate for mobility impairments and the lack of control over a person’s environment. The expandable (more advanced) electronics that are available in power wheelchairs allow the client to utilize Bluetooth®, infrared, and even radio frequency to controls various devices in his or her home. The expandable controller can provide access to phones, tablets, computers, door locks, door openers, thermostats, lights, security cameras (doorbell cameras), televisions, and other electronic devices.
So, it’s important to remember that even though the survey says that the main purpose of a power wheelchair is to provide basic means of mobility, the other opportunities that it provides can truly maximize an individual’s independence and improve their quality of life.
About Wade Lucas: Wade is a physical therapist and the clinical education manager for Quantum Rehab in the western U.S. In his spare time, Wade enjoys watching his kids compete in their activities, as well as playing golf and watching football.