DIRECTIONS, Volume 5 2020 provides insight in the CEU Article, “Why We Need to Consider the Drive Wheel on a Power Wheelchair” Written by Rachel Fabiniak, PT, DPT. Did you ever wonder why some power wheelchairs can easily drive over rough terrain while others get stuck? Or why for some individuals, the inside of every door frame is destroyed from the wheelchair running into it? There are many variables on a power wheelchair which can impact the maneuverability, driving technique, and even the comfort of the individual. For this article, we will discuss how the configuration of the drive wheel can impact more than just the look of the power wheelchair. (NRRTS would like to thank Permobil for sponsoring this article.)
First, we must start at the very beginning. The drive wheel on a power wheelchair is the larger wheel and is connected to the motors. The drive wheel location has a significant impact on how the power wheelchair drives and maneuvers in different environments. There are three main types of drive wheel configurations: front, mid drive, and rear-wheel drive (see Figure 1).
This article will explore drive wheel configuration pros and cons, selection considerations, and how to teach an individual to drive each specific configuration. The drive wheel is in many cases the first consideration when prescribing a power wheelchair, but do we ask the right questions to really determine which option is best? Then, once the chair is delivered, do we work on the specific driving skills required for that configuration? Or, do we just have our standard driving instructions that we quickly run through? Confidence for an individual driving a power wheelchair was independently associated with less difficulty with activity, participation, increased life space, and greater wheelchair skills (Mortenson, 2015). We must remember that each individual will need specific training based on their cognition, learning style, experience, and environment of use.
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