What are some of the speciality controls for power wheelchairs? This article will take a look at some of the current options on the market.

Joystick Considerations

Even though the joystick is the most widely used input device for power wheelchairs, not all disabled persons can physically use a joystick to operate a power chair. In such cases an alternative input device would be required.

One of the main considerations for a joystick power wheelchair is what type of handle to use in the joystick gimble. You have the knob, ball, goal post handle and your regular stick handle. It will be up to the user to determine which one works best for them.

Joysticks can be mounted on the left or right side. It can even be placed in the middle, but that might require some adjustments to the programming of the chair. Again this preference will be up to the user.

Proportional Input Devices

In proportional input devices the amount of deflection of the input device would correspond to the rate of movement of the chair, almost like how a car moves when the gas pedal is pressed. A regular joystick is a good example of a proportional input device. The further the joystick is moved out of neutral the faster it will go.

Non-proportional Input Devices

A light switch is a good example of a non-proportional  input device. The switch is either on or off and the switch on the power chair is programmed for one direction and speed. Other non-proportional input devices include sip and puff as well as the head array.

Switches are either electronic or mechanical. Electrical switches do not require touch to be activated. Fibre Optic switches are examples of electric switches and they can be activated when objects are detected in the adjusted range. On the other had mechanical switches require the switch to be depressed to make it operational.

Assessment and Trial

The input device decision for the power wheelchair will begin with an assessment of the disabled person. The access point or the part of the body that will be used for controlling the wheelchair will be part of the assessment.

The access point is the part of the body that the disabled person can reliably move in two directions. It could be the thumb, elbow, head, cheek, mouth, chin, finger, knee, toes, or foot. The user will have to be trained in the proper use of the controls.


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