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When looking for a powerchair there are many options available which at times can be confusing. To eliminate some of this, we spoke to Matt James, director of Precision Rehab, one of the UK’s leading suppliers of powerchairs with over 25 years industry experience.
How to find the perfect powerchair
When looking for a powerchair what are the primary things people should consider?
There are lots of things to consider when looking for a powered wheelchair, here is a list of points to consider: Lifestyle (what is the user wanting the powerchair to do on an everyday basis), what range/distance will they need to travel in a day, size and dimensions of the chair, what is the weight of the chair and what is the maximum user weight and combined weight (for lifts, house and car).
Will the chair meet their current needs and more importantly be able to adapt to any changing postural management and control changes and what powered functions will the chair need to perform? It is vital to always have a home assessment to ensure its suitable for your home, work place and other regular places the client needs to access.
There are numerous seating options available so it important to find out what type of seating can the chair be supplied with and as most users will be travelling in a vehicle is the chair crash tested and approved for both webbing and automatic docking system. Research the company you are looking to purchase from, are they BHTA registered and are their assessors experienced, do they have any recommendations and always ask about warranty length, aftersales care and parts stock.
How important is it to have a thorough assessment and what does the assessment involve?
The assessment is the most important part of the process and if possible, should be carried out with the client’s choice of professional OT or PT.
It is recommended to try more than one powerchair, select three powerchairs that you believe will meet all your requirements and try each one to the same level of assessment.
Always have a home assessment and if possible, try all the environments that you want to use the chair in such as work, with family / friends, favourite restaurant etc. The assessment for powerchairs should be no less than two hours to allow time for the assessment, measurements, fact finding and detailed note taking.
From what age can people start using a powerchair?
There is no real answer to this, it is based purely on the client and their individual capabilities and understanding of the safe use of a powered wheelchair. In the past we have had a client start using a powerchair at the age of 18 months and took delivery at the age of 2, it is very much down to the individual.
Many NR Times readers or their clients / family members have very specific requirements due to their spinal or neuro injury or condition. How easy it is to make a powerchair bespoke so it meets their needs?
As a company we can offer just about any modification and bespoke solutions that our clients request from specialist controls and seating to additional powered functions and bespoke items such as powered swing away joysticks, powered flip up footplate, USB charging points pretty much anything is possible.
We also work with other companies to supply complimentary equipment that we fit predelivery to ensure a fully bespoke service, these companies included Mo-Vis, Contour886, RMS, BodyPoint and many more…
Can you give us some examples of adaptations you have done to help clients?
We have fitted mini joysticks with heating and cooling systems, custom seating while working together with Contour886, electric swing away joysticks, electric flip up footplates, custom solutions fitting aftermarket headrests, thoracic supports, arm pads, modular seating solutions, even custom painted body covers and matching seat stitching.
Can you offer any advice on what funding is available to help with purchasing a powerchair?
With over 25 years of experience in assessing and supplying specialist powerchairs we have lots of avenues to advise our clients with regards to where they could seek potential funding, these can be age, disability or work-related avenues, we discuss all the client’s options and advise each one accordingly.
Bearing in mind most users are extremely reliant on their powerchair, in terms of aftercare, what type of support do manufacturers offer?
Precision Rehab take aftersales very seriously as this is one of the most important parts of our service when supplying specialist powerchairs.
Our clients are very much dependant on their powerchairs, we only deal with a limited number of suppliers to ensure we can cover all parts of the UK. We deal with manufactures such as Paravan GmbH and NHD who not only manufacture very well-built reliable chairs but also offer fast and effective parts supply.
We had pre-Brexit meeting with all our suppliers to ensure we can still offer our same level of service and ensure we can maintain our UK parts stock. We have recently joined the BHTA to ensure with growth we can offer the same high stand of aftersales care and keep up with their code of practice.
Can people maintain their own powerchair or does it have to be serviced by the manufacturer?
Within the manufactures warranty period it is only the manufacture or their recommended or authorised service department that should maintain the powerchair.
We recommend this continues outside of the manufactures warranty period as many if not all clients take out extended warranty packages and within the terms of these policies it must be serviced by an authorised agent within a 12-month period.
We also recommend a pre-planned annual service is carried out to ensure reliable use and helps prevent unwelcome breakdowns or failures (preventive maintenance), outside of all warranty obligations the client could maintain their own powerchair but we would not recommend this.
What are the common mistakes people make when looking for and purchasing a powerchair?
The most common mistakes is not looking into the kind of everyday things a client would like to do with their chair such as travel in an adapted vehicle, will it fit in a lift at home (weight and size), what type of terrain can the powerchair cope with, user weight limits, size of the powerchair, will the controls progress with the clients changing needs, will the seating grow or be able to adapt to postural changes.
As mentioned previously it is vital to always try out several powerchairs at home, work and other local environments you often attend to ensure the chair meets all the requirements of your lifestyle and disability needs for both the short term and long term.
What are the common misconceptions people have about powerchairs?
I think one of the biggest misconceptions that people have is that powerchairs make users more disabled looking than manual wheelchairs. In most case they more enabling and with modern powerchairs more effort is put into the design and appearance.
You recently added the Glory headset to your portfolio. How has powerchair technology evolved over recent years and what do you see in the future?
In the last 10/15 years powerchairs have come a long way. These days, chairs offer greater functions with more advanced control ideas, drive from wheelchair options, design and more choice than ever and in the future, I believe we will see even more advanced controls.
For example, on a recent visit to Rehacare in Dusseldorf there were many new control ideas including eye gaze/vision steering systems and voice control systems. We recently added Mo-Vis to our supplier list and have just taken delivery of the first Mo-Vis scoot attendant control in the UK for our client and an assessment kit.
To discuss the full range of powerchairs available from Precision Rehab Contact Us