Electric Wheelchair Safety

When you’re going through the process of getting a new electric wheelchair, you want a chair that looks cool, is comfortable and can get you from point A to point B as safely as possible. Safety is always the number one priority. When I first started to use my Edge 3 with iLevel, I was not prepared for how much my life was going to be affected by being able to drive while elevated. I learned very quickly my normal world in a wheelchair had changed. How I interacted with friend’s family changed. I noticed when doing everyday activities, I could reach for things i was not able to before. I was able to hold hands with a girl while walking for the first time since I was 16. Everyone who knows me personally understands I try to live my life as independently as I can.

When I think about all of the benefits iLevel offers in my daily life, I realized I frequently get asked about safety by new chair users and consumers.  New iLevel users are especially concerned about safety. They say they’re too afraid to drive elevated because they feel like they’re going to tip over. You have to understand that it is not natural for our bodies to be elevated in the seated position while moving. The process of adapting to driving while elevated at iLevel usually takes about 2-3 weeks for the average user when they first start using their new iLevel motorized wheelchair. This is especially true if you have been a wheelchair user for a long time and have always sat 15-20 inches above the ground.

Being elevated is a big change, yet there are lots of safety features. iLevel has a safety suspension lockout mechanism. If you look at your Q-Logic 3 joystick screen, you will notice a green circle in the top left-hand corner. If you watch that green circle when you start to elevate your chair, you see an eye symbol inside the green circle within four seconds of elevating. This eye indicates your chair’s suspension has been locked out and your chair is converted to iLevel. This eye lets you know you can safely drive elevated. The iLevel safe suspension lockout prevents the front caster wheels from fully articulating. This allows for maximum stability when you are raised in iLevel.

Me navigating a curb in my wheelchair

Here are some safety tips while traveling with your iLevel motorized chair. The first safety tip while traveling is plan ahead. Whether it’s something as simple as going to a local restaurant with friends or flying from New York to California, I always have a Plan A and Plan B. I always plan for the worst-case scenario. I make sure I have all the information I need about my wheelchair and any phone numbers for people who might have to help me in case I run into an issue, like if the airline destroys my chair when I land. Read my tips for traveling with an electric wheelchair. If I am traveling with a friend I always let my friend know my plan and my course of action, in case something goes wrong. Remember the most important thing: you can call Quantum’s consumer call center and they can connect you to a local Quantum dealer anywhere in the country if you need assistance.

Another safety tip I recommend while driving around in your wheelchair is to be mindful of the weather. I am always very conscious about the weather. It’s a habit for me to always check the weather before I go out, whether I’m leaving my house or the hotel. If the weather says it’s supposed to rain, I always make sure I have a small foldable umbrella with me to protect myself and my joystick. I also bring a small washcloth with me. Just in case any of the rain does get on my Q Logic 3 controller, I have something to dry the controller off.

Another safety tip I have for you is to main the battery life of your electric wheelchair and charge it regularly. I highly recommend charging your wheelchair every night while you sleep, even if you have 95 percent battery displayed on your joystick. If you get into a habit of charging your wheelchair every night, you will never have to worry about missing out on activities and events during the day because of low or dead batteries.

One last safety tip, especially when you’re driving your wheelchair around a place you’ve never been. Most likely, you will be unfamiliar with the sidewalks and terrain. Always remember this important thing. The safest way to approach a curb cut is straight on with your wheelchair. This also includes any rough terrain or hills. Watch this video to see me navigate a curb in my power wheelchair.

About Josh McDermott: Josh is a brand ambassador for Quantum Rehab®. He is a public speaker and has served as a goodwill ambassador for the Muscular Dystrophy Association. Josh lives in New York and loves to travel. Click here to learn more about Josh.