How To Choose The Best Powerchair For Your Chronic Illness

stock image of two people using axus powerchairs, sat at a table drinking tea and laughing together
Image Credits: AXUS

[AD. This post is sponsored by AXUS. As always, all opinions and lived experiences are my own!]

I often talk about how becoming a wheelchair user has changed my life for the better. However, I also know that finding the right mobility aids for your chronic illness can feel daunting. Powerchairs can be especially beneficial for people with Energy Limiting Conditions, but with thousands of different options out there, it’s important to find the one that’s right for you. If you’re looking for the perfect powerchair, here are some tips and tricks…

Make a list of your symptoms and the features which best accommodate them

Chronic illness is incredibly unique, and no two people’s lived experiences are the same. Writing down your core symptoms can be a helpful starting point – consider the things that affect you most significantly, and how you usually accommodate them.

If you have autonomic dysfunction, consider a model where you can elevate your feet to avoid blood pooling – the Axus AX3, AX4, and AX5 all have powered elevation and tilt options to utilise when you’re out and about. If you have chronic pain, look for models with larger wheels and better suspension to give you more stability when you’re on the move – the Axus AX2 has an ultra-stable base, with their Smart BASE Technology offering optimum stability even on hills with steeper gradients. For cognitive fatigue, I advise opting for a chair with easy-to-use controls, as well as with a tight turning circle, for ease of movement. Even the iconic Axis AX5 has outstanding agility in tight spaces, with a turning circle of just 110mm. And trust me, if your spatial awareness is anything like mine on bad fatigue days, you’ll be grateful for all the help you can get…

Try before you buy

a woman using her axus powerchair outdoors, looking onto a garden of pretty flowers
Image Credits: AXUS

As you’ll likely know, powerchairs are a big investment. It’s crucial to make sure that the model of your choice is the right fit for you – something that looks incredible online may appear or behave differently in person. Therefore, it’s important to try before you buy.

You could visit local mobility shops, use services like Shopmobility to hire different models and try them out for the day, or book a home visit from a mobility provider. Axus offer free home consultations for anybody interested in their products, with no pressure to buy. Rather than a hard sell, their expert consultants are trained to consider not only your needs but your lifestyle too. If you enjoy being outdoors, they’ll be able to tell you more about the Axus AX5’s SpiderTrac™ 2.0 sports suspension to facilitate more adventures. If comfort is key, they can talk you through the Axus AX4’s fully configurable SEDEO PRO seating system that can be tailored for your posture. They’re there to offer honest advice and support you in finding mobility aids that will truly enhance your life.

Consider the battery charging and recharging process

I’ve had my own powerchair for just over four years now, and the only thorn in my side throughout this time has been moving and charging the battery. Thanks to living in an inaccessible building and deteriorating battery quality thanks to my less-than-ideal storage situation, I often have to try and carry a very heavy battery in and out of my flat.

My best advice is to look for a model with a strong battery life to start with, to reduce how often you’ll need to panic-use the charger. All of the Axus models have excellent range – the Axus AX3, for example, has a mind-blowing 22-mile capability (almost double the range of my current model) on a single charge, so you can go about your day without fretting about being stranded. If like me you’ll need to physically transport your power-chair battery around to recharge it, always check that you can lift it safely and independently before you commit to buying.

Think about where and when you’ll be using your powerchair

a woman using her axus powerchair to look around a bookshop
Image Credits: AXUS

Mobility aids are tools that can enhance our lives, and we all use them differently. For me, I only use my power-chair outside of the house and when significant walking or standing is required. I also happen to live in a very historic and cobbly old town that isn’t quite up to speed with equal access in public spaces, and I wish I’d considered this more seriously when choosing my chair. Accidentally ricocheting off a dropped kerb that wasn’t quite dropped enough is no fun, so it’s just amazing to see that the Axus AX3 can climb kerbs of up to 70mm. I’m very fond of my own powerchair Janice, but I don’t mind telling you that if we ever attempted a kerb of that height, I’m pretty sure neither of us would live to tell the tale.

If you’re looking for a chair you can use indoors and outdoors, the Axus AX1 is ultra-compact. A width of 540mm means you can make it through even narrow doorways, and yet still it has the robustness to handle the outside world. If you’ll need to lift and transport your powerchair in the car, the Axus AX2 offers full support for your body and head and yet still folds down into a more compact size (and has removable arm and leg rests) and weighs much less than others on the market. If you’re living independently, it’s again worth checking you can manage any transfers you’ll require.    

Choose a model that feels like your own

Finally, choosing the right powerchair isn’t just about ticking the boxes for your medical needs. You deserve a mobility aid that makes you feel empowered, that you feel confident in, and that enables you to live your very best independent life.

It’s not at all shallow to think about the appearance of your chair, or what model makes you feel most like ‘you’. All of the Axus Powerchairs are sleek in design and visually appealing, and you can even choose from a range of colour inlays to accent your chair – I absolutely love this feature and wish I’d had that choice back them, rather than the somewhat geriatric designs that are thankfully no longer the norm. You may also want to consider bespoke accessories – perhaps a mount for your phone or most crucially, a self-levelling cup holder for your cuppa. The Internet and social media is also full of content on further ways you can customise your chair and truly make it part of your style.

And there we have it! I really hope you find these tips helpful. There are loads of great mobility brands out there and different products will suit different people, but the more I learn about Axus and their products, the more firmly they cement themselves on my mobility aid wish list for the future…

Where To Next?

2 Responses

  1. I have Matilda, a Pride Fusion powerchair who’s s named after the Robot Wars house robot as she can be a bit of a thug! But she gives me my freedom. Re charging, I’ve had an outside socket put in so that I can charge her while she’s still in the boot of my car (and I know I’m very privileged to be in that position). I’m an outdoors swimmer and used to love walking and I’ve challenged Matilda considerably. She regularly spends time sitting by lakes and rivers while I swim. We managed to get halfway up Latrigg Fell and back in the summer and this week we attempted the incredibly steep Robin Hoods Bay. I did have to walk her up and down the very steepest bit (using the joystick and staggering along beside her), but it was wonderful to be able to do that. The cobbles in Whitby aren’t much fun, but many of the pavements are too narrow, but we managed. Completely agreeing with spending a LOT of time (and energy in my case) working out what you want v what you need v what is feasible. I would love something that is truly off road, but that was just impossible from both cost and transporting it around. But Matilda has given me back my freedom in so many ways.

    1. Oh I love the name Matilda, sounds like you’ve had some fab adventures! I’m actually heading to Whitby in the near future so it’s reassuring to hear that you managed. Thanks so much for reading!

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