Quick Guide prior to purchase

 

It is important to consult your dealer and to give them an adequate picture of your expectations, and for those expectations to be realistic in line with what can be afforded. Good dealers are patient and considerate and have wide experience, and have training certificates. A good used chair if guaranteed by a reputable dealer, may be better value than new. Do not buy blind unless you really know what you are doing!

1. When and where do you want to use it, and for what? Indoors; short or long journeys; at night; in poor weather; on rough surfaces or grass. Beaches and mud are out for most - special off-road powerchairs do exist for this. A small scooter may safely enable one small bag of shopping to be carried. Larger powerchairs and scooters can carry much more, however, you need to ensure that this will still leave the controls free, will not stick out, nor cause your vehicle to overbalance.

2. What terrain do you want to use it on? An indoor and shopping centre scooter is not suitable for many pavements and kerbs as these scooters have small wheels and no suspension, being intended for "billiard table" type surfaces in the home and centres, not uneven kerbs and potholes! Try your proposed chair on the surfaces you plan to use it on.

3. What are your mobility limitations? This is especially important when it comes to choosing the right controls. Scooters have tiller type steering needing some arm and wrist strength. Powerchairs have electronic joysticks which can be mounted to left, right or centre, or for use by an attendant, but needing some coordination, and come in front wheel drive, mid-wheel drive and rear wheel drive. Rear wheel drive is probably the best outdoors and mid-wheel indoors.

4. Is the seating appropriate to your needs and the length of time you spend in it? If you buy a £600 chair or scooter, it will have minimal seating and short range. The most expensive Recaro chair for constant use costs c £3,500 for the seat alone, without the powerbase, controls etc.  Off-road chairs can cost c £15,000 and special needs chairs can cost over £30,000 and that used by Professor Stephen Hawking is reputed to cost over £250,000!

5. Transporting. Some small chairs and scooters can be quickly split into units for carrying in the boot of any car, even small ones. Larger scooters and powerchairs can be lifted by cranes into the back of an estate car. Still larger ones need special purpose wheelchair accessible vehicles (WAV) with ramps or lifts which are powered. If planning to use such a vehicle, check that you will have adequate ramp clearance to load and unload where you intend to park. Check also that the driver is comfortable with the size of vehicle, many of which are van based. Some conflicts may need resolving - a car portable chair or scooter without suspension  is not suited to road or rough surface use.

5. Consider where you will keep it, and charge it. Is storage an issue? Will it manoeuvre in the space available? Internally, will it go through doorways? Can the charger be plugged in safely?

6. Obtain appropriate insurance and maintenance cover, and where appropriate, a small toolkit and a cagoole or similar waterproof cover for you, and your trusty steed.

Enjoy your new freedom and mobility!

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