Front Wheel Drive Chairs
Choosing a Front-Wheel-Drive Chair
For people who need to make use of a power chair to assist their mobility, one of the most important considerations is the drive configuration of the chair. Drive configuration is not a one size fits all concept; therefore, each consumer must first determine his or her most important needs in light of how the chair will be most often used. It is also helpful to have an understanding of how the location of the drive wheels directly affects performance.
With the drive wheels positioned at the front of the chair, front-wheel-drive models offer effective navigation over curbs, rough terrain, and other obstacles that may arise in daily life. These chairs also offer superior handling on grass. They turn on a pivot point that is located at the front of the chair, which means mid-wheel-drive chairs may be better for handling tight corners. The user is better able to position his or her feet as there are no casters located at the front of the chair. Because these chairs pull from the front as opposed to pushing from the back wheels, turning the chair can be more difficult as the weight of the chair is at the back; therefore, the user must be cautious and mindful of people and objects that are behind the chair. Fishtailing is also more common with this type of chair. For this reason, drive speeds tend to be lower than with other chair configurations.
When choosing a power chair, it is important to remember that front-, mid-, and rear-wheel-drive models all have their advantages and disadvantages. The National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research funded a research study to evaluate power chairs with wheels at different positions. The study led to the conclusion that there is currently no single power chair that offers all the advantages of each wheel position while avoiding all disadvantages; therefore, there is no perfect chair for everyone. As a result of these findings, Criterion Health developed a prototype of a mid-wheel-drive chair that offers variable position drive. However this model is just a prototype and is currently not available for purchase.
For power chair users who require a chair that can handle curbs, more challenging terrain, and is capable of traveling outdoors and across grassy areas, a front-wheel-drive chair is ideal. Those who wish to purchase a front-wheel-drive chair should look for a stabilizer feature that will make it easier to pivot around tight corners. However, consumers should evaluate the totality of their lifestyle to determine how and where they will use their chair the most before deciding on a particular wheel position.
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