When deciding on a powerchair (power wheelchair, electric wheelchair, etc., steered by joystick or other electronic components) or a mobility scooter (three or four-wheel device with handlebars for steering), it’s important to weigh the pros and cons of each type of powered mobility device.
Mobility Scooters (devices steered by handlebars) are popular for a variety of reasons. They are generally simpler devices that have a single motor which powers the two back wheels while the user manually steers the device via the front wheels, like a bicycle. The manual steering is an intuitive feature that can be easier for some to operate safely. They come in both 3 wheel and 4 wheel varieties, the 3 wheels being a bit narrower at the front and the 4 wheels providing greater stability but a wider front frame. Many models have the same back end and seat with the only difference being that either the single front-wheel frame or the double front-wheels frame is attached at the front.
Scooters often have baskets at the front and/or back as a useful accessory for shopping, and many stores provide scooters of a slightly different variety for customers to use while shopping, demonstrating the benefits of a scooter and basket when shopping. It usually have all large wheels which can make traveling over uneven terrain easier, with a lower likelihood of getting stuck. Scooters also come with a key, meaning that leaving it in public is less of a risk.
Most scooter seats do swivel to allow getting into and out of the chair easier for some, and the armrests usually flip back for the same reason. Some come equipped with headlights and other lights that can make visibility for the rider and for passing vehicles easier at night. Scooters are generally made for individuals with less extensive mobility challenges than those who require a powerchair. For this and perhaps psychological reasons also, individuals sometimes are less reluctant to acknowledge their need for a scooter rather than a power ‘wheelchair’ or powerchair.
Powerchairs can be found in the simplest of models akin to a scooter but also in the most complex of forms, and are customizable to meet the needs of the individual. Some offer reclining features, tilt-in-space features (which tilts the entire seating unit backward rather than the backrest only, providing seat pressure relief, easier positional adjustment, and other benefits). Many are designed to be used in conjunction with specialized seating cushions, can be used with customized backrests, and driven by a joystick, positionable on the right or left-hand side.
Powerchairs are ideal for indoor use and can also functional well out of doors. The powerchair uses two wheel motors that operate independently of one another and respond to the movements of the joystick or other steering device. Most Powerchairs can spin on a dime, with no extra space needed at all to turn 90 or even 360 degrees. In addition, the lack of a handlebar/tiller unit at the front means that powerchairs are generally designed to be able to pull up to a table, desk, accessible sink, or any other unit or item, to be able to easily interact with objects in front, to the side, or because of the turning radius, even behind you, all from the seated position. While some power wheelchairs can be ‘locked’ electronically through the joystick they generally do not have a key.
In addition, programmers for powerchairs can be used to adjust joystick sensitivity, turning speed, top speed, and other operational features to customize it to meet the user’s individual, unique needs. The safe and comfortable operation of a powerchair usually takes a new user longer to learn than a scooter.