Though the terms “power wheelchair” and “scooter” (also referred to as electric wheelchair and electric scooter) are often used interchangeably, these products actually have distinct features for patients with different mobility needs. However, both options offer independence to their users.
Perhaps the most notable difference between electric scooters and electric wheelchairs is in the controls. Power chairs are steered with a joystick, allowing for more control and requiring little arm or hand strength. Power chairs allow steering with just a person’s fingertips. Hands and arms are also supported at all times on a power chair. Electric scooters are controlled with handlebars, or “tillers,” which require more upper body strength. This is because the tiller/handlebars must be able to be held for extended time periods. The handlebar control also requires greater upper body strength.
Unlike electric scooters, power wheelchairs come with either front or rear-wheel drive. However, the power wheelchair’s turning radius is smaller than an electric scooter’s which is important based on the patient’s environment. In addition, electric wheelchairs let you maneuver closer to most transfer surfaces such as the bed or bath. They also enable you to pull up to most tables and work surfaces. This is difficult to do in a mobility scooter as the tiller, located on the front of the scooter, sits between the driver and their work surface. Power wheelchairs can be used inside and outside of the home, while electric scooters are designed primarily for out of home uses and longer distances.
Seating & Positioning
Power wheelchairs offer the user more options for customization, while electric scooters cannot be adapted to fit the individual’s needs. Power wheelchairs also have more seating options to further suit the user’s needs. As a patient’s condition changes, additional options can be added that will be more comfortable and supportive for their ongoing needs.