Can an Electric Wheelchair Be Pushed Manually? Tips for Pushing Safely

Can an electric wheelchair be pushed manually? This is a common question among electric wheelchair users and those who care for them. 

To ensure safety while manually pushing an electric wheelchair, we will discuss important factors such as weight distribution, terrain conditions, and user preferences. 

Lastly, we’ll share valuable tips for safely maneuvering these devices without causing damage or injury.

Can You Push an Electric Wheelchair?

  • Yes, an electric wheelchair can be pushed manually.
  • Most electric wheelchairs are equipped with a freewheel or neutral mode that allows them to be pushed.
  • This feature is helpful if the battery power is exhausted, in a tight space, or with obstacles that may be challenging for the electric motor.

Why Push an Electric Wheelchair?

There are several reasons why someone may need to push an electric wheelchair:

Battery Power Depletion: If the battery of the electric wheelchair runs out of power or is not functioning properly, the user may need assistance to move the wheelchair manually.

Emergency Situations: In case of an emergency, such as a power failure or mechanical malfunction, pushing the electric wheelchair manually can be necessary to move the user to a safe location or out of harm’s way.

Limited Mobility: Some users of electric wheelchairs may have limited upper body strength or skill, making it challenging for them to operate the controls. In such cases, a caregiver or assistant may need to push the wheelchair.

Maneuvering in Tight Spaces: Electric wheelchairs can be bulkier and wider than manual wheelchairs, making navigating through narrow doorways or tight spaces difficult. By pushing the wheelchair manually, it becomes easier to maneuver and navigate in such situations.

Uphill or Uneven Surfaces: Electric wheelchairs may face difficulty navigating steep inclines or uneven terrain. In these situations, manually pushing the wheelchair can provide additional assistance to overcome obstacles or challenging surfaces.

Factors to Consider When Pushing an Electric Wheelchair

Before attempting to push an electric wheelchair, it is essential to consider various factors that can impact the safety and ease of this task.

1. Engage Freewheel Mode to Push a Power Wheelchair

Before pushing the electric wheelchair manually, make sure to engage the freewheel or neutral mode. 

This disengages the motor and allows the wheels to rotate freely. 

Refer to the user manual or manufacturer’s instructions for the specific method to activate the freewheel mode for the particular wheelchair model.

2. Battery Life While in Freewheel Mode

While pushing an electric wheelchair in freewheel mode does not directly drain the battery, it’s still important to consider the remaining battery life. 

If the battery is low, pushing the wheelchair manually for extended periods may lead to complete battery depletion. Monitor the battery level and plan accordingly.

3. Is a Power Wheelchair Too Heavy to Push?

Power wheelchairs with more robust frames and large batteries can range from 100 to 300 pounds (45 to 136 kilograms). Lightweight models typically range from 50 to 100 pounds (23 to 45 kilograms).

Standard manual wheelchairs generally range from 35 to 50 pounds (16 to 23 kilograms). Lightweight models range from 15 to 35 pounds (7 to 16 kilograms). 

Be aware of the chair’s and the user’s combined weight when considering if you can move them in their power wheelchair without assistance from the motor.

Moving a heavy wheelchair may require more physical strength than you can think (especially uphills and on soft terrain).

4. Be Aware of Terrain Type When Pushing a Heavy Powerchair

The type of terrain on which you plan on pushing a power wheelchair will also affect how easy or difficult this task may be.

  • Slopes: Uphill slopes can make pushing an electric wheelchair particularly challenging; conversely, downhill slopes may cause difficulty controlling speed and stability while moving forward.
  • Rough Surfaces: Uneven ground, such as gravel paths or grassy areas, could prove problematic for traction and maneuverability when pushing an electric wheelchair manually.
  • Obstacles: Be aware of any potential obstacles in your path, such as curbs or steps, that may require additional assistance to navigate safely while pushing the chair.

Potential Drawbacks of Pushing an Electric Wheelchair

While pushing an electric wheelchair can provide some benefits, there are also potential drawbacks and limitations.

1. Control and Braking of the Power Wheelchair in Freewheel Mode

When a power wheelchair is in freewheel mode, the user cannot control the wheelchair using the joystick or control panel.

Note that the braking system disengages in freewheel mode.

The person pushing the wheelchair has complete control over its movement, which may not be as precise or intuitive as the user’s control.

2. Maneuverability When Pushing Electric Wheelchairs

Electric wheelchairs are designed for powered mobility and may not have the same level of maneuverability as manual wheelchairs. 

When pushing a powerchair, you may notice that it is somewhat harder to make tight turns or navigate through narrow spaces due to its larger size and weight compared to a standard wheelchair.

3. Pushing Heavy Powerchair Requires More Physical Effort

Power wheelchairs are generally heavier than manual wheelchairs due to the added weight of the motor and battery. 

Pushing an electric wheelchair manually requires more physical effort than pushing a standard manual wheelchair. This can be tricky for the person pushing, especially over long distances or uphill.

4. Safety Concerns When Pushing a Power Wheelchair

Since these wheelchairs are heavier than manual ones, they require more effort and control while maneuvering them manually. This increases the chances of tipping over or losing control.

Pushing an electric wheelchair manually requires coordination between the person pushing and the wheelchair user. Both must be aware of the intended direction and speed to avoid accidents or collisions.

Are There Any Alternatives to Pushing an Electric Wheelchair?

If using and pushing a heavy power wheelchair is not possible for some reason, there are also some alternatives.

Transfer to a Manual Wheelchair: Depending on the circumstances and the user’s capabilities, it may be possible to transfer from the electric wheelchair to a manual wheelchair temporarily. 

This allows for more effortless maneuvering when pushing the electric wheelchair is not practical or when the battery is depleted.

Wheelchair Power Assist Devices: These devices are designed to provide additional power and assistance to manual wheelchairs. They typically attach to the rear wheels of a manual wheelchair and offer motorized propulsion, making it easier for the user or a caregiver to push the wheelchair.

Transportation or Mobility Services: In specific scenarios, such as longer distances or transportation needs, utilizing accessible transportation services or wheelchair-accessible vehicles can provide an alternative to pushing the electric wheelchair. 

These services are designed to accommodate wheelchair users and provide safe and convenient transportation options.

The Bottom Line

Pushing an electric wheelchair manually can be advantageous in certain situations, such as when the battery runs out or if the user needs assistance. Yet, pushing a heavy power wheelchair by hand can present drawbacks like difficulty navigating rough surfaces. 

To safely push an electric wheelchair, it’s crucial to use proper technique and avoid pushing too hard or too fast. Always communicate with the user and ensure they feel comfortable with you behind their chair.

If you’re a senior-aged person looking for more information on mobility devices, visit Senior Supported today!

Similar Posts