Going Mobile, Part 2: I’m Powering Around the House

John Connor avatar

by John Connor |

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Ah, the sequel.

Back in April, I wrote about getting an electric wheelchair and then spending hours working out how to get it going.

Six months later, I may have cracked the challenge of driving it without putting cracks in my house.

When a district nurse visited last week, she said that she could always tell when there was a power wheelchair user in the house by the gouges in the bottom of the door frames.

However careful I am, and even when I stay in low gear, grazes occur. After all, I’ve replaced my legs with what is effectively a mini-tank!

Besides the struggle of getting your nonworking legs onto the footrests, the latter tend to switch to destroy mode at the slightest miscalculation. So far, I’ve not been a drunk driver. But late at night, when I’ve self-medicated in the California fashion, my judgment goes. Though I might want to go slower, there’s no gear for that.

It’s all too fast.

My architraves have taken a right battering!

Still, experience counts.

The door jamb is in a jam! (Photo by John Connor)

For the first few months, when working at my desk — handily situated a few feet from my bed — I’d fold the footrests back and scoot around.

However, the footrests would get stuck in the wheels and prevent me from moving sideways. I found a solution to that problem — bang it into top gear and effectively do a power brake turn! Highly enjoyable, but undoubtedly bad for my newly laid wooden floor — and my new wheelchair.

Then one day I pulled too hard on the footrest, and it just popped out. When this happens on a self-propelled chair, it takes forever to put back. Even able-bodied people find it tricky, as reattaching the footrest involves getting it to fit into two holes simultaneously.

I wasn’t looking forward to fixing it. I knew that I’d get it done eventually, but realized that it might take a while. However, much to my surprise, the task was effortless as it pops in as easily as it pops out. I thought, “Why can’t ordinary wheelchairs have this fitting? If you’re in a wheelchair, life is a struggle, why make us struggle more?”

Now, there’s a thought. I took off both footrests, so no more power brake turns, which is a pity. But there’s something else. My wheelchair’s seat and backrest can tilt upward independently. It works sort of like a Segway, the personal transport system you stand on that only older people like me remember.

Look, Ma — no footrests! (Courtesy of John Connor)

My feet are off the ground, and I can now get through doors even if I have to take a tight corner to do it.

The architraves have suffered no more damage.

Except on the occasions when I’ve partaken of too much of the old California Dreaming


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Mary E. Marros avatar

Mary E. Marros

Offset door hinges-make your interior doorways about 1-2 inches wider, to get your chair through.

Pamela Michel avatar

Pamela Michel

I had someone take the doors off two doors that are a tight squeeze...I have had it for about 6 months (different chair) but still killing the door jams...oh well...it is only wood.

Jeff avatar


If my door jams only looked that good ........

I'm in my fourth chair. My house cries when I get a new one; it knows I have to relearn how to drive all over again. But, and this is the most important thing, everything can be fixed. I just had my interior repainted and a quart of wood putty later and I get to ding it all over again. Sigh

The definition of insanity is: "Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different outcome." Oh well.

So, twist one up and burn it!

vanessa aguilar avatar

vanessa aguilar

Have you tried sticking plastic corner covers on the door jambs? They are L shaped plastic strips about a metre long and come in different widths from DIY stores. It will bring the width of the doorway, in by about 1/8 inch thickness.


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