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Powered wheelchair guide

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Before you buy a powered wheelchair, consider the points below:

  • Assessment is recommended before purchase
  • Before you choose a powered wheelchair consider whether you want to use it inside or outside or both
  • Indoor-powered wheelchairs tend to be smaller to fit around the home, with a basic seat with back and arm rest. The small battery is for short distances
  • Outdoor powered wheelchairs tend to have larger batteries for longer distances and a larger wheelbase with suspension for uneven surfaces; some have special features such as kerb climbers
  • If you are planning to use the wheelchair indoors, measure doorways and turning spaces and ask the retailer which models will fit
  • If considering an outdoor wheelchair, check routes, safe crossing points, and gradients in your local area, and ask the retailer which wheelchair can meet those requirements
  • Most powered wheelchairs are steered using a joystick which can be mounted on the left or right side in front of the armrest
  • Check the seat is comfortable and supports you in a position to reach and operate the hand controls safely
  • Check that you can get on and off the seat safely
  • Check the weight limit of the wheelchair is adequate for you
  • The wheelchair must be stored, and battery charged, in an indoor space that has level access and power
  • If buying a wheelchair with a lithium battery, see additional guidance from Devon and Somerset Fire & Rescue Service in our Lithium Battery Before You Buy Guide
  • Check that you can get on and off the seat safely

Powered wheelchairs have either mid-wheel, front-wheel, or rear-wheel drive:

  • Rear-wheel drive wheelchairs are the most stable on ramps and uneven surfaces but have the largest turning circle.
  • Front-wheel drive wheelchairs are more difficult to drive but have a shorter footprint and a smaller turning circle than rear-wheel drive and can get closer to worktops.
  • Mid-wheel drive wheelchairs have the smallest turning circle so are the most manoeuvrable but only the more robust models can also cope with uneven surfaces and ramps.

Expect to pay from £1,400


Powered Wheelchair Safety Considerations

  • Ask your G.P. and Optician to confirm you are fit to operate a Powered Wheelchair in a public place.
  • Scooters and Powered Wheelchairs can be dangerous to yourself and others. You must have complete control over the vehicle. Please consider this before you purchase.
  • Always read the relevant ‘Before You Buy Leaflet’ before purchase or hire; available from the Independent Living Centre 01392-380181 or
  • Always choose a reputable dealer with a local contact for repairs and emergency call out; Call ILC for retailers in your area.
  • Always follow manufacturer’s operating and safety instructions.
  • Always check vehicle is switched off before transferring on or off.
  • Always check the wheels are engaged and not in ‘freewheel’ before getting onto the wheelchair.
  • Ensure that your seat and armrests are locked in position before starting the wheelchair.
  • Always remember the wheelchair is a substitute for walking not driving, so keep at a walking pace.
  • Until confident, always take an escort on journeys.
  • Always plan your route in advance to ensure safe level paths and level crossing places with good visibility.
  • Never carry passengers or pets.
  • Insurance is recommended against breakdown, loss, theft, or damage to yourself or a third party.