One of the key benefits of a motorized wheelchair, which is controlled electronically, is how it frees up the mobility of its user. This means greater personal freedoms and control over mobility for a user operating an electric wheelchair. As a popular mobility solution, and depending on the users’ needs and lifestyle, electric wheelchairs can require minimal secondary assistance. But what about when a user does need assistance?

Often operated conveniently by a joystick, which can be fitted and configured to the user’s needs, motorised or electric wheelchairs are powered by a motor (and a battery). However, there are moments and situations, whether planned or accidental, where you might think about manually pushing an electric wheelchair, especially if you’re a carer.

These commonly include:

  • You may need to manually move an electric chair in order to transport it between locations.
  • The powered chair suddenly stops working.
  • The battery runs out, especially after longer periods of use.
  • Or, during a prolonged trip, you may want to save battery life by manually operating it.

Before trying to manually operate an electric wheelchair, you should always consider the safety and care of the unit, trying to avoid any damage.

Should You Push Your Electric Wheelchair Manually?

Despite being motorised, many electric wheelchairs can be pushed manually. This is featured across many designs and models of electric wheelchairs, especially if you own or plan to purchase a lighter weight one.

Where it’s suitable with the design of your wheelchair, the electric motors can be disengaged, so manually pushing it won’t cause damage. As they’re built to minimise dependence on secondary assistance, it’s unlikely that you’ll need to regularly manually push an electric wheelchair. Instead, there will be rare moments where a carer will need to intervene, such as folding and carrying a chair for transport or storage, or due to an unplanned mechanical fault.

When is it problematic to manually push an electric wheelchair?

Whilst it’s technically achievable, and often a design feature, manually pushing an electric wheelchair has its shortcomings. From the inconvenience of storing it, to the heaviness of a chair’s weight, there are common problems with pushing a motorised chair.

Electric wheelchairs can be heavy

Heavier models of powerchairs can be tricky to manually operate, especially with the combined weight of the chair and its user. This often makes it inconvenient to manoeuvre without the support of a powerful electric motor.  

The weight of the chair will compound, as it quickly starts to feel and seem heavier, when you’re faced with a steep hill or incline. Problematically, even the slightest inclines or changes in the environment, to a heavy powerchair, will seemingly add weight. Thus, it can seem like a great difficulty to manually push and support a heavier powerchair, especially if the terrain toughens or changes slightly.

If you’re thinking of more frequently pushing an electric wheelchair, it would be beneficial to consider a lighter weight model. The LITH-TECH Smart Chair X XL, for example, offers a dynamic performance on a combination of different terrains and, as a specialist light weight  folding electric chair, it’s compatible various manual features when the motors are disengaged, including easy foldaway for storage and transport.

Storage difficulties

Similar to weight strains, powerchairs that lack versatility will often be trickier to stow away. In fact, if the design is inflexible, it can be an awkward task to store a wheelchair in a tight space, such as in a cupboard.

Practicality is a feature in more modern, specialised ranges and it further helps both the user and their carer, or those requiring any secondary assistance. The marketplace can be varied when it comes to electric wheelchairs.

The better models for storage and transport are those that combine being lightweight with hardwearing, meaning they can be easily stowed, or lifted, without strain. These models can often weather more challenging terrains and perform both electronically and manually. The LITH-TECH Compact is exemplary of how a chair can balance both a powerful motorised performance, and be folded, lifted or operated manually. This is an ideal and portable solution to chairs that might otherwise look and feel too heavy and inflexible. 

Slopes and inclines are risky (and can cause injury)

Those with supportive, secondary assistance will find that travel can quickly become complicated if the terrain suddenly changes. Higher performance powerchairs can comfortably (and confidently) manage a variety of tougher environments, but those with under-performing chairs will find steeper inclines and slopes tricky to manage. 

Whether a carer, a friend, or family, supporting and pushing against a wheelchairs weight can cause strain and injury. It’s risky to counteract the weight of an already heavy powerchair with your own. But fighting against a steep incline can worsen the problem.

The best resolution is to find an electric wheelchair that can flexibly change between an electric performance and a manual one. As with its easy stow-away, the LITH-TECH Compact can manage challenging hills, but the motors can be paused freely if it needs to be pushed or towed. 

How to avoid batteries running out

Nowadays, many high-performance wheelchairs are designed to confidently manage a host of tougher terrains and situations, from hills and slopes to different surface types and even potholes. It may be that you want to avoid pushing a chair outside of when you plan for transporting or storing. There are other chairs on the market designed more specifically for manual pushing and these are less specialised than the electric equivalent.

You might end up manually pushing an electric wheelchair because of a mechanical fault, or more likely if the battery has run out (it is unadvisable let batteries completely drain). 

To avoid this, consider opting for a chair with a more substantial battery life if you plan on travelling farther distances, or more often. It also helps to plan for more advanced batteries, which can offer faster charge. The LITH-TECH Smart Chair 1X, for example, offers an industry leading distance of 18 miles on a single charge (with a charge time of five hours).

Travelling with spare or replacement batteries is recommend as this will help users avoid suddenly running out battery life. Many models make it easier now to exchange between batteries, so you don’t have to delay your journey for long. 

Alternative to pushing your electric wheelchair

In certain scenarios, the user may require additional assistance to operate their chair, such as a health condition. The full functionality of an electric wheelchair can be easily missed, especially because more premium powerchairs are feature-rich by design.

In scenarios when pushing is not the best solution, consider how a market leading electric wheelchair can offer an ideal, supportive performance. These are often highly configurable and can offer helpful features such as additional padding or an extra joystick for greater control. Consider how personalising your mobility solution can smartly get around the troubles and difficulties of manual tasks. Where electric wheelchairs are nowadays very advanced, you could benefit from a more sophisticated mobility solution.

As a specialist in this area, LITH-TECH are on hand to help you choose the right chair depending on your needs and lifestyle. Whether your travel lot, or have certain accessibility needs and requirements, we can help you make an informed decision.

If you require a more bespoke mobility aid, browse our ranges today.