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SCI Health Issues
Because the level of sophistication varies so widely, so do the prices, from around £1000 - £16000 ($1900 - $30000). The latest and most high tech wheelchair at the moment, is the iBOT. The iBOT mobility system can climb stairs, bump up curbs, glide through gravel and even elevate a seated passenger to reach the top shelf at a grocery store.
Essentially, the iBOT is a gyro-balanced mobility device designed to operate either on four or two wheels, stabilizing the user by automatically adjusting itself to compensate for any shift in weight.
This degree of sophistication does come at a price though, and at £16,000 ($30,000), it is only available to those with very deep pockets! To many Electric wheelchair users, the average price of a wheelchair will be around £3500 ($6500).
When choosing an electric wheelchair, be sure to use a reputable make from a licence supplier. This will ensure you receive full back up if the chair needs servicing. Also beware of second hand electric wheelchairs, as they can suffer from cracked frames, faulty batteries and worn out motors.
The way that Electric wheelchairs are propelled also varies, and these different methods give different characteristics to the wheelchairs. The following are the three basic methods of propulsion:
There are also three different battery types to be aware of when choosing your wheelchair. These are "Wet", "Gel", and the newer "AGM (Absorbed Glass Mat)" types. Their properties are listed below:
Wet batteries use the chemical reaction between lead and sulphuric acid to create electrical energy. As the batteries need filling with distilled water, they do have a higher maintenance rate, but are lighter than Gel or AGM batteries. Wet batteries are also prone to leakage, something which is important if you intend to put your wheelchair in the hold of an aircraft.
Gel batteries contain a mixture of sulphuric acid, fumed silica, pure water, and phosphoric acid, which forms a thixotropic gel. As there is no liquid in the battery, they do not leak or require maintenance like wet batteries.
AGM batteries have an absorbent glass mat sandwiched between the plates, saturated with acid electrolyte, but with none free to spill. This “sandwich” allows uniform distribution of the electrolyte over the plates, and reduces the chance of battery damage caused by vibration and jarring.
When purchasing a new battery, shop around. Buying a new battery from a wheelchair supplier or medical supplier will cost more than an electrical supplier. Don't be taken in by bogus claims that the batteries can only be purchased from wheelchair suppliers.
Wheelchair Junkie - An excellent resource for all matters relating to wheelchairs.