Alisa Brownlee, ATP, CAPS blog offers recent articles and web information on ALS, assistive technology--augmentative alternative communication (AAC), computer access, and other electronic devices that can impact and improve the quality of life for people with ALS.
Any views or opinions presented on this blog are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the ALS Association.
Tuesday, May 22, 2012
Power Wheelchair Care--Tips for Power W/C Users
Used with permission from my friend and colleague, Antoinette Verdone. As always, I give my thanks to her for letting me share this informative newsletter.
Assistive Technology Newsletter from Antoinette
Verdone, MSBME, ATP
Power Wheelchair Care Tips for Power Wheelchair
Power wheelchairs are complicated devices. Using a
power wheelchair can be overwhelming at first. Here are some tips to keep your
chair in good condition and working for you!
If you are a new
power wheelchair user, take your time to familiarize yourself with the chair and
how it operates. A power wheelchair has very powerful motors, and thus the
power of the chair should be respected. Make sure you always drive the chair on
smooth, even surfaces. Any bump over ½” can cause the chair to lose control
easily. Also be aware of inclines as the chair could tip over if you do not
navigate inclines carefully. When going down steep inclines, you may find
tilting the seat back (if you have that feature) slightly will make the ride
more comfortable. Be aware that some chairs may “lock out” if tilted too far.
Power wheelchair users should be particularly careful with cross slopes - slopes
from left to right when facing the slope - as power wheelchairs are not designed
to navigate much cross slope. If it looks steep to the eye - be
transferring in/out of the wheelchair, turn the power off.
and armrests are not designed to be weight-bearing surfaces and should not be
used to take your weight when transferring. This can cause damage to the chair
and possibly severely injure you.
Power wheelchair joysticks are
“proportional.” This means that the farther you push the joystick the faster it
will go. Once you push the joystick all the way, it will not go any faster – do
not put extra force on the joystick. Most chairs have some sort of speed
control to limit the top speed that the chair will go. The speed and other
features of the chair can be programmed to suit your needs. Contact your
wheelchair provider for assistance in adjusting the speed.
chair is stopped, the breaks automatically come on. The breaks will prevent the
wheels from turning, even when the power is off. You cannot manually push a
power wheelchair unless you release the motors. Releasing the motors should
only be done in the case of an emergency. A power wheelchair is very heavy, and
you can quickly lose control of the chair if you are pushing it manually. If
you look at the bottom of the chair, you will see release levers. Some chairs
have one on each side, and some only have one. If you are not sure how to
disengage the motors, call your wheelchair provider.
As you use the
chair, you will have a regular charging routine. The chair should be charged
when the battery indicator goes below 50% charge. If you leave the chair unused
and not charging for an extended period of time, it will completely lose its
charge. If this happens, the only option is to replace the batteries, which can
be costly. (When in doubt, connect the chair to the charger!) · You
cannot over charge the chair. The charger will turn itself on and off as long
as it is plugged in. · The typical life expectancy of power wheelchair
batteries is about three years. This is very dependent on how you use the
chair. Some people will be able to get much longer use, others much shorter.
If your batteries are not lasting for one day of typical use, call your
wheelchair should always be kept in a climate-controlled environment. Extreme
heat or cold will damage the batteries and the electronics of the chair.
A power wheelchair should not be stored out of doors or in a garage (or
other non-climate controlled space.)
GETTING THE CHAIR WET
wheelchair has electronics and batteries that can malfunction if they get wet.
Avoid crossing puddles in the chair that may splash water onto the chair. Wrap
a clear plastic bag over the joystick and controller if you must drive in light
rain. DO NOT OPERATE A POWER WHEELCHAIR IN HEAVY RAIN.
to the chair and become familiar with the sounds that it makes. If you notice
that the chair is making any unusual noises, contact your wheelchair
On a regular basis keep the chair clean by wiping surfaces
with a damp towel, using mild detergent when needed. Do not immerse any part of
the chair in water. Special attention should be made to keep wheels and the
bottom portion of the chair clean to avoid debris from damaging the wheels or
Do regular checks to make sure all wires and connections are
securely connected and free of fraying. Notify your wheelchair provider if you
notice anything out of the ordinary.
SHARE YOUR IDEAS I would love
to hear your ideas on this topic, please go to my blog - http://improveability.wordpress.com/ to leave your comments
and/or suggestions about power wheelchair care.
Have a question about
power wheelchairs or other assistive technology click
here to send me your questions.