Power Wheelchairs vs Manual Wheelchairs – Advantages and Drawbacks of Each

December 19, 2023
December 19, 2023

Many Canadian require the use of a wheelchair to get around. About 1% of the population require the use of a wheeled mobility device according to Statistics Canada. Some people only need a wheelchair temporarily while they recover from an injury or health issue, while others require a wheelchair permanently.  

The good news is there have never been more options to choose from. You can choose a manual or power wheelchair, select specific features, and customize your wheelchair to meet your unique mobility requirements.  

One of the biggest decisions you will be faced with is do you choose a power wheelchair or manual wheelchair. There are advantages and drawbacks to each option and it’s important you choose a wheelchair that meets your specific health and mobility needs.  

Here we will break down some of the pros and cons for each option.

Manual Wheelchairs

Manual wheelchairs are one of the most widely used mobility products. They are simple and straight forward to use. Newer models offer customizable features to improve comfort and functionality.

The Advantages

  • They are generally easy to transport
  • They are easy to use
  • Very little maintenance required
  • Most models can fit through narrow hallways and doorways
  • They are more cost effective than power wheelchairs

The Potential Drawbacks

  • You may require assistance to get around
  • They require some strength to use
  • They can result in repetitive strain issues, especially in the shoulders
  • Not ideal for going long distances or up inclines

Power Wheelchairs

Power wheelchairs present a new host of options to consider. They are designed to be easy to use and offer a variety of customizable features to meet your mobility needs.  

The Advantages

  • They do the work for you
  • They are ideal for going long distances
  • They are ideal if you no longer have the strength to use a manual wheelchair
  • They can use used on many surfaces
  • They offer customable options to improve your comfort level

The Potential Drawbacks

  • They can be cost prohibitive
  • They are significantly heavier than manual wheelchairs
  • They are difficult to transport – you may require a customized vehicle
  • You’ll need to be conscious of power usage
  • They require regular maintenance
  • Learning controls can be a learning curve


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