I'm asked the question so often; "Why do all that work of pushing a wheelchair instead of using a motorized one?"
Here's the answer...
My TiLite manual wheelchair is extremely lightweight, custom-built for my specific needs and physical ability and preferences. It's very design reduces the effort of propulsion; for one thing, it coasts so well that it takes fewer pushes to go a given distance, putting less long term strain on my arms and shoulders.
|In my state-of-the-art manual chair.|
In other words, pushing my chair is not at all as difficult or exhausting as people often imagine. Really, it's not as hard as it looks.
In 1973, following my spinal cord injury, I went through an intensive rehabilitation process. Not only did they train me in wheelchair skills, they put me through extreme weight training. I'm still pretty strong at the age of 56, so wheeling manually is natural and easy for me.
Wheeling is good for my health. It keeps me somewhat in shape, burns off some calories (still wrestling with that chocolate addiction!), keeps my upper body stretched, and is good for my circulation.
My manual chair allows me to drive a Honda Accord Coupe, because it's so feather-light that lifting it into the back seat is a breeze. Once, that is, I pop off the wheels with their quick release axles. If I used a power chair, I'd have to drive a (much more expensive) adapted van with a ramp or lift.
I sometimes face situations where I need a lift up steps. With a couple of people of average strength and healthy backs, I can easily be wheeled up stairs (using a method that uses the wheels, and where I can contribute to the process). Not an option with a much heavier power chair.
My manual chair costs a lot less than a power chair - not to mention the cost of the above-mentioned modified van. It has fewer operating parts so less likelihood of maintenance issues. I am more agile in my manual chair, able to easily make small adjustments to where I want to be in space.
And I feel less disabled-looking in my manual wheels.
Not that power chairs don't have their place. Au contraire. They have made huge leaps in design. But power chairs, for general daily use, are for people who don't have the physical capacity to push a manual chair over the course of a full day's activity. When it's the right solution for you, then, just as my manual chair does for me, a power chair extends mobility and independence on a scale never before seen.
Frankly, I'd love to have one of the heavy-duty outdoor power chairs to take the dogs out on the great trail system here in Northern California. The $50,000 or so it would take (for the chair AND the van) is just not in the budget right now.
One of these days power mobility will have a place in my wheeling life. Hopefully someone will be willing to pay for it.