There are a number of people who need wheelchairs and will not use the powered variety because they have had a bad and scary experience with them.

The Real Issue with Power Wheelchairs

When I looked deeper into this problem by asking a mobility therapist about it, I discovered that the people who have had these bad experiences drove the wheelchair without making proper programming adjustments and that was the real issue.

That can be likened to one who does not even know how to drive being put at the wheel to operate a car of higher performance. I could easily understand when it was put into these terms.



I learned that normally there is a seating and mobility evaluation that is done to determine how a client will functionally react to the movements of the chair. Each person has different functional, physical, and even perceptual skills when it comes to motor function and rehabilitation needs.

That means each person will have a different ability to drive and handle a powered wheelchair. The wheelchair needs to be programmed in order to be tailored to a specific client’s needs. All of these chairs have different adjustments which can be altered to fit with specific abilities.


I found out that each of the chairs has its own specifications depending on the make and the model but there are both complex as well as basic parameters for programming that will need to be evaluated and addressed.

If the programming is not completed properly, one could have a very bad driving experience or the driving could potentially be dangerous. Normally the programming needs to be done the very moment the chair is first used.

This is when a mobility therapist can help to make the necessary evaluation and adjustments to the chair so that the individual is best able to drive according to their own particular abilities. In order to have a good outcome and successful driving of the powered chair, the programming needs to be done properly.

Adjusting Speed

I was told that when one is first trying out a chair, it is important to start out with slower speeds until one is more able and comfortable with the motion and movement of the powered chair. The maximum speeds can be adjusted as needed.

For those with impaired judgment, slower speeds will need to be used. As the experience is gained, speeds can be increased accordingly.

Adjusting Acceleration and Deceleration

The acceleration and deceleration of the power chair can be adjusted, as I came to understand. The client who is experiencing acceleration that is too rapid may not compensate enough and have accelerated, jerky movements leading to frustration.

Conversely, if the deceleration is set too high, the powered chair may slow down too fast and if it is set too low, it may not slow down fast enough.

The Joystick

I learned that the joystick response has to be set for a particular client’s needs. Some people have limited or weak hand motion and need more sensitivity of the joystick while others do not.