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Which Power Wheelchair Is Right for You?

  • Category: Articles by Clinicians
  • Posted On:
  • Written By: Kathryn San Martino, PT, NCS, MSCS, ATP/SMS, CLT-LANA, Outpatient Neuro Clinical Program Manager
Which Power Wheelchair Is Right for You?
If you use a wheelchair, you know how important it is that it fits your lifestyle. But finding the right type and working with insurance can be difficult. For those who require power mobility, these wheelchairs can range from simple to complex, each with pros and cons. The good news is, with experienced help, you can find the right chair and customize your options for comfort, function, and mobility.

There are many features to consider, including size/footprint, backrests and seat cushions, power seating options, transport capability, control mechanisms, as well as features to meet your other medical needs beyond mobility. It is important to understand your insurance coverage during this process. An experienced ATP (Assistive Technology Professional) can help.

One common power mobility option is the scooter, which may be ideal for those who can only walk short distances. Unfortunately, scooters don’t always offer a small footprint for home use. They can disassemble for car transport, but this can prove difficult for some users without assistance. Scooters provide limited trunk support and no suspension for navigating uneven terrain. Also, some manufacturers do not accept insurances and are cash-only.

A second type is the standard power wheelchair. These provide more supportive seat backs and are maneuverable with joystick navigation. A wide variety of styles exists, including power-tilt options if your insurance provider deems it medically necessary.

Finally, there are complex power wheelchairs. These are often highly sophisticated in terms of electronic capabilities, with power seating, power tilt/recline, elevating leg rests, and cushion/backrest options. Power-elevating seat and power-standing options are also available but have limited or no insurance coverage.

All- terrain power wheelchairs are great for those who are active in the outdoors. On the downside, they aren’t covered by insurance and have too large a footprint for indoor use. However, there is a new exciting power mobility option called the iBot. The iBot’s all-terrain navigation lets users traverse curbs, stairs, sand, snow, gravel, and more, indoors and outdoors. The iBot can raise the user to eye level using its patented balance technology. Its footprint is comparable to other power options, and it is functional for in-home use.

If you have questions, the Wheelchair & Seating Clinic at Casa Colina can help. Casa Colina has many power mobility options available for trial, including iBot. Led by Physical Therapists who are certified Assistive Technology Professionals, our program offers safe and seamless wheelchair evaluations, with knowledgeable staff who can help you through the complex world of equipment insurance approvals. For more information, call 909/596-7733, ext. 3500.