I’ve been a wheelchair user for a little while now, and my manual wheelchair has given me so much freedom! However, that freedom was limited to when I had someone available to push me as I don’t have the strength or energy to propel myself for more than a few minutes. I couldn’t go out at all on my own or even whizz off to a shop while my partner chatted nearby. After a lot of thought, and renting one to try, it was decided that a powerchair was the best way forward for me to be able to keep as independent and as socially active as possible.
When choosing a powerchair, I had very specific criteria that I needed to stick to. I don’t have access to a WAV (wheelchair accessible vehicle), so my chair had to be able to fit in the boot of a regular car. I currently live in a very small house, so there’s no space to be able to store a larger model. I would also be using it mostly outside, so an indoor-specific model wouldn’t be suitable. Having also hired a mobility scooter to try previously, the seating position and position of my arms wasn’t comfortable, and many mobility scooters aren’t allowed on buses here in the UK, which is vital to my independence. After a lot of researching, I was lead to the folding powerchair!
As soon as I sat in the demo Foldalite, I knew it was a perfect fit. I’m quite small and I didn’t find the chair at all bulky, and it was easy to judge the space around me while turning. It has a lovely narrow turning circle, and quick automatic brakes.
The chair comes with a basic foam cushion, which I have since replaced with a thicker foam cushion as the supplied one wasn’t suitable for my needs. There’s also an underseat water resistant basket which is perfect for my little emergency bag and shopping bags!
Everything about the chair is compact, including the motor! The tension of the backrest can be adjusted to suit the user, and the back of the chair folds down to make it even smaller for storage.
The control panel Is a little different to most, as this one has a screen! As with all standard powerchair controls there’s a directional joystick, buttons for increasing and decreasing the speed, the power on/off button, and a button to sound the horn (which on this chair is an actual horn sound and not a beep, which did make me jump the first time I used it!). In addition, there is an SOS button which sounds an alarm when pressed, and provides great peace of mind when I’m wheeling alone! There’s also a USB port in the side of the control panel which is excellent; especially in the winter where it can be used to power a USB heating pad!
The screen itself shows the remaining battery level, the current speed setting, and the dial in the centre shows the current speed being used up to the maximum for that speed setting. On pressing the menu button, there are options to change the display brightness and language, whether the sounds play upon pressing the buttons (or turning the chair on and off, apparently it has a verbal greeting which may be helpful for some folks!), and the drive mode which can be switched between soft, normal, and power. The control panel can also be fitted to either armrest, depending on the individual’s needs or preferences!
The two lithium ion batteries fit neatly into the frame of the chair, can be charged both on and off board with the supplied charger, and supply a lovely 9 miles (15 kilometres) of range on a full charge! Just over one bar of battery provides me with enough power for a day out and about in the city and the charger is small enough to carry conveniently, so running out of power is never an issue for me personally!
Here’s the main selling point of this chair that reeled me in; it folds up to the size of a medium-ish suitcase, and can be pulled along like one too! On a good day I can pull it along without too much difficulty, but on a normal or bad day it can cause a lot of pain. My partner can manoeuvre it fairly well, and is also able to lift it in and out of the car for me; I wouldn’t be able to do this myself.
When folded, the chair even has a kickstand so it can be stood up anywhere with ease!
I absolutely adore my chair, but I have a couple of small dislikes, which is only human! I’m not personally a fan of the bar across the top, which even though it’s padded with foam, presses into my back and gets a little uncomfortable after a while. Additionally, being a rear-wheel drive model instead of a mid-wheel drive, I do find I have issues tackling sloping pavements and corners, but this will get better with practice!
My powerchair has given me so much freedom, and I am so beyond grateful to have access to this mobility aid. Having the freedom to move independently again is absolutely wonderful, and I’m proud of my chair! There’ll always be times where I feel self conscious about using it, as many folks do with their mobility aids, but it’s a new, totally badass part of me!
This post is not sponsored; reading posts like these helped me in choosing the right chair for me, and hopefully by writing my own, I can help someone else do the same! (I found this post by Natasha Lipman about the Foldalite, and this post by When Tania Talks about the Pride I-Go particularly helpful)
Love and light,