Benefits of Manual and Powered Wheelchairs


Wheelchairs increase mobility and independence for people with disabilities, enabling active participation in day to day activities.

While the thought of getting one seems very straight forward, it can prove pretty confusing as the options available are bountiful. As a result, it becomes important to get acquainted with the benefits of the major types available. This will help with the decision-making process.

The type of wheelchair required may depend on the physical needs of the user, as well as how they intend to use it.

Types of Wheelchairs

There exists a wide range of wheelchairs differing by mode of propulsion, the technology used, type of frame, and the mechanism of control. However, they all fall under three broad categories. They include:

  • Manual wheelchairs;
  • Manual wheelchairs with power assist devices;
  • Powered Wheelchairs.

Manual wheelchairs can be pushed by the user, or by a carer (often called attendant propelled). There are also power assist devices which fit onto manual wheelchairs and provide powered propulsion to a manual wheelchair. Power wheelchairs are propelled by electric motors and do not require the physical strength of the user or an attendant. But which type is the best option?

The true answer is that it depends on a number of factors. These factors include as how and where the wheelchair will be used, how the wheelchair will be transported if needed, and most importantly the physical needs of the wheelchair user and their carers.

Besides these factors, there are benefits as well as disadvantages associated with both manual and powered wheelchairs and they need to be considered as well when working out what best suits a person’s needs.

Increased Independence

Both manual and powered wheelchairs allow for independent movement and participation in everyday activities. Manual wheelchairs do a great job conveying its users from place to place when self propelled independently or pushed by an attendant. They are smaller and much lighter than a power wheelchair, so can be transported in cars and taxis easily.

However, for some users a manual wheelchair with a power assist device or a fully powered wheelchair better supports independence as it comes packed with an inbuilt electric motor for easier mobility so less or virtually no physical effort is needed for mobility. Powered wheelchairs do the same, but more efficiently and almost effortlessly. They offer increased independence and freedom to people who have difficulty pushing a manual wheelchair. However one of the disadvantages to power wheelchairs is that they can be heavy, and do not easily fold up for transportation in a vehicle.


Some wheelchairs are designed to fit into corners, turn small areas, move through narrow paths, and climb steep terrains. This enables the user to navigate around obstacles both indoor and outdoor.

Moreso, certain types are built to carter to some specialized needs like traveling, and sporting activities. For example, wheelchairs for traveling may be foldable and built with thinner frames to enable them to fit into other mobility aids like cars and shuttles.

Powered wheelchairs have great mobility and are very easy for comfortable manoeuvring of different terrains, like hilly areas and pavements. The manual types also do a great job though they can be more difficult to move over outdoor terrain. Unless the user has good stamina and upper body strength to go uphill, powered wheelchairs or a power assist device may be the perfect option.


Socialization has a great impact on health and happiness and lacking it could lead to low self-esteem, isolation, and depression. Often, loved ones who recently experience decreased mobility find it very difficult to partake in social activities and this can be very harmful to their physical and emotional health.

A wheelchair, alongside other mobility aids, can help boost socialization. Whether it is a manual or powered wheelchair, it will help the user stay active and continue to enjoy those activities they love.

Consult with an expert at GTK

Both manual and powered wheelchairs increase independence, provide mobility and boost socialization. Working out what the best option can be difficult, but our experts at GTK can work with you to determine what type of wheelchair would suit your needs best.

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