Thursday, 17 December 2015

Power Wheelchair Drive Controls

Drive controls, for the purposes of this web site, are the controls used to actually drive a power wheelchair. The information I've provided here is a quick overview of the most common types of drive controls, and a few of the less common.

With the advances of technology these days there are always people working on new and improved ways to control a wheelchair but probably 98% of all users will be able to find something on this page that will work for them.

The average person would think that there would be nothing easier than driving a power wheelchair by pushing on a little knob in the direction they want to go. While this may be true for the "average person" there are many people who would find this difficult or even impossible because of physical limitations. Because there are so many who can't use a conventional joystick wheelchair manufacturers have devised other ways for people to drive their Electric Powered Wheelchairs.

Proportional Drive Controls: Standard Joystick
  1. Conventional Joystick
  2. Compact Joystick
  3. Head Drive Control
  4. Finger Drive Control 
  5. Touchpad Drive Control
1. Conventional Joystick
A conventional joystick generally consists of a gimbal knob an on/off switch, a speed control and a battery gauge. Depending on the level of electronics on the Power Standing Wheelchair there may also be program indicators, power indicator lights etc. To use a conventional joystick the user pushes the gimbal in the direction they want to go and the further they push in that direction the faster the wheelchair will move similar to a gas pedal in a car. Pictured is an Invacare PS joystick.

2. Compact Joystick
When controlled by the chin, the gimbal is mounted on a swingaway mount of some sort and positioned slightly below and forward of the chin. Chin controls work much the same as conventional joysticks in that the user simply pushes the gimbal the direction they want to go and control their speed by the distance they push the gimbal. The knob on the gimbal can be replaced with a small cup or other shaped piece depending on the needs of the user.

3. Head Drive Control
When set up to be actuated by the head, the gimbal is mounted behind the head and attached to a headrest. The user pushes the left side of the headrest to go left, the right side to go right and pushes back to go forward. In order to back up the user must activate a switch and then push the headrest straight back. The user must activate the switch again to move forward. Normally this is not a serious drawback, but if the user is in a situation where several back and forward movements are needed to get through a doorway or enter an elevator etc., it can be quite annoying.

4. Finger Drive Control
Finger control drive systems consist of a small square box about 3" x 3" x 1 1/2" with a 2" hole in the top of it. The finger control box can be mounted just about anywhere the user can comfortably reach. To drive the chair with a finger control box, the user places one finger through the hole on the top of the box and moves the finger in the direction they want the Electric Wheel Chairs to move. This system is basically the same principle as a joystick in that it's a proportional drive but instead of moving a gimbal, the user moves a finger. Pictured as an ASL finger control box.

5. Touchpad Drive Control
Touch pad drives also drive the Powered Wheelchairs with a finger and can be mounted in several places on the wheelchair depending on the ability of the user to access it. Because touch pads are also proportional, the user can determine and control the speed of the wheelchair while moving simply by a small movement of the finger. The pictured touch pad is a Switch-it.

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