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Permobil Blog / June 30, 2022

How do I prepare for getting a power assist device?

How do I prepare for getting a power assist device?

This is part of our series highlighting a consumer's guide to seating and mobility equipment. Check out The Wheelchair Handbook for more information about the wheelchair service provision process.


Are you a full-time manual wheelchair user, meaning, you use your wheelchair for your safe, basic and functional mobility?  Have you ever thought about adding a Power Assist Device to your manual wheelchair?

This series of blogs will highlight things to think about before you meet with your Team. Each blog will provide you with questions to help you evaluate your own needs and goals, so that you can share this information with your Team.

This is #2 in our series and will highlight Power Assist. In the first blog, you learned about how to prepare for getting a seating system. The next blog in this series will highlight power wheelchairs.

Research tells us that using a manual wheelchair full-time can lead to upper extremity repetitive strain injuries, pain and loss of functional mobility.

“Shoulder pathology in wheelchair dependent patients is very common. The prevalence of pain and restricted movement in this population is reported to occur in 33% to 62% of individuals.” - Jordan, R. W., Sloan, R., & Saithna, A. (2018).

“Carpal tunnel syndrome is a common side effect of the long time use of wheelchair, and its severity is associated with duration of wheelchair use and age. Alternative methods for wheelchair propulsion should be developed to diminish the likelihood of the syndrome.” - Asheghan M, Hollisaz MT, Taheri T, Kazemi H, Aghda AK. (2015)


A manual wheelchair user pushes 2,000-3,000 times each day. The goal of a power assist device is to reduce the number of times you must push your chair and the amount of force needed to push. Power assist devices are an aid to your mobility and can be added on to almost any manual wheelchair. It lets the battery-powered motor propel you while you only need to manage the steering, turns, and stopping. This helps you to be proactive about your health and energy, before injuries or pain set in. Other potential benefits of a power assist device include reducing strain with propulsion, increasing your functional mobility, and enhancing your participation in desired activities.


Did you know that Permobil’s Power Assist solution, the SmartDrive has shown to reduce the amount of pushes by 80%, which allows people who push manual wheelchairs to do more over longer periods of time.

Have you considered a Power Assist Device as an add-on to your manual wheelchair in order to enhance your independence and participation in activities?

Here are some questions to ask yourself and be prepared to share about your ability to propel your manual wheelchair:

  • Is it difficult to propel my chair ?
  • Do you have difficulty pushing your chair up ramps, over carpet, over thresholds and on rougher terrain?
  • Do you have difficulty pushing long distances ?
  • Do you have upper extremity pain or weakness?
  • Do you experience fatigue from pushing your chair that limits your ability to participate in activities or the ability to get where you need to go?
  • Do you need assistance in pushing your chair? If so, when and where?
  • Are there places that you cannot access or go to because it is too hard or too far? 

Here are some questions to ask yourself about what you need and want to be able to do in your manual wheelchair

  • What are my functional and medical needs- has anything changed about my condition or functional status?
  • Where do I plan to use my wheelchair? Indoors, outdoors, what type of terrain?
  • What activities do I complete throughout the day? Am I having any difficulty completing these activities?
  • Are you saying ‘no’ to going places because you know it is too hard to push and get there without experiencing pain and/or fatigue?
  • Have you considered a power wheelchair but for various reasons, don’t want to transition to one yet (you don’t have a modified vehicle, your home won’t accommodate a power wheelchair, you just don’t want a power chair)

It sounds like you might want to consider a power assist device, like the SmartDrive!


SmartDrive gives you freedom to do more. It moves with you and it’s so lightweight, you don’t even know it’s there. You can spin in place, be in a wheelie, or hop off curbs. Empower your active lifestyle.

SmartDrive offers a range of controls to deliver a seamless power assist experience, providing an opportunity for 80% fewer pushes. SmartDrive was created with manual wheelchair users in mind. The mounting location, the ergonomic handle, the weight, and the OmniWheel were all designed to give manual wheelchair user access to fewer pushes.

SmartDrive has had some recent updates!


So now, what do you do with all of this information? Take this information and share it with your team to make sure that your needs and goals are addressed while you select your power assist solution.

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Permobil Clinical Education Team

This information comes from the Permobil Clinical Education team which consists of a group of Occupational and Physical Therapists. Click here to learn more about Permobil clinical education team.

Categories: Complex Rehab, Power Assist, End Users

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