Buying your own electric wheelchair

In his latest blog, EaRN volunteer Colin looks at the things to consider when buying an electric wheelchair.

When I received my first electric wheelchair as a child in the 70’s I did not think about access since that wasn’t taken into account when construction was being planned, I was just glad to be able to go to different parts of Hawick myself and do my own thing.  I just accepted that as being the norm, no ramped pavements or access to shops, I just collected shopping by asking an assistant to bring out what I wanted.  When I went to College in Coventry as a 16 year old that is when access first hit me and became an issue, I had to travel in the guards van as there were no wheelchair spaces in the carriages and you just accepted that as the case.  The older one becomes the more questions you ask.

When my family moved to Edinburgh in ’83 I knew that I wanted to become a season ticket holder at Celtic FC, I decided to purchase my own outdoor electric chair.  I went to a NAIDEX exhibition in London and looked for an electric chair that met the following specifications.

  • Distance a full charge of battery covers
  • Puncture proof tyres
  • Lighting on chair for when out at night
  • Speed capacity of chair for calculation time span to get from A to B and back
  • Is your chair wide enough to fit into public transport, i.e. bus, tram and taxi
  • Would you be able to drive home if any of the above were not available?
  • Nearest accessible station to your home and destination?
  • Are the nearest stations to your home and destination accessed  by ramp or lift?
  • If the latter check the nearest ramped accessible station is in case of lift not working
  • Is there an insurance company that has no distance restrictions on get you home in event of breakdown
  • Make sure the seating and other options suit your preferences
  • How far is engineer based from you in event of repair
  • Is Motability available for purchasing chair
  • Will chair fit into your house and any family or friends you may visit
  • Would I need planning permission to build a shed if I don’t want to keep chair in house
  • Find out if your intended bus operator allow access for electric wheelchairs in advance rather than just turning up

Having planned all of the above in advance it has given me confidence and independence knowing what I can and cannot do and being spontaneous in my outings.  One final piece of advice if planning a day out with a fellow wheelchair user liaise in advance about what bus number you are getting so you are not in competition with each other for the 1 wheelchair space.