About modding wheelchairs and mobility scooters
About wheelchairs vs. scooters
Manual wheelchairs are the kind that people sit in and use the rims to push themselves.
Transport chairs are usually cheaper, and don't let the disabled user propel the chair, but must be pushed by someone walking behind them.
Mobility scooters can be 3 or 4 wheel; 4 wheels are more stable. They generally have a tiller in front that the user holds onto and drives a bit like a bike's handlebars. A low end scooter might be around $800 and use lead acid batteries. A high end scooter with lithium batteries is likely going to be over $2K. There are some folding lightweight varieties.
Powerchairs come in many varieties but they are going to have at least 4 wheels and are likely to be driven via joystick. They generally will be more expensive than a scooter. There are folding powerchairs that will likely be over $2K with lithium batteries but not a ton of range or power. More solid powerchairs are gonna be heavy and have a powerful motor, maybe with regenerative breaking.
Motor controller tech on scooters and powerchairs is proprietary and desperately needs reverse engineering!
Modding and attachments
If you look around at other wheelchair users you will see that everyone has some need to attach stuff to their chair. At the very least, a backpack hanging off the back. But also, holders for canes, trays or arms that swing out and hold assistive communication devices (phone or tablets, etc). There are a ton of simple but incredibly useful hacks you can do to Attach Stuff to Chairs.
- cable ties
- bungee cords
- custom sewn straps and bags
- cup holders!
- bike, motorcycle, and camera mounting brackets
Lead acid batteries in a chair or scooter need replacing at least yearly but depending on how heavily it's used, more likely to be every 6-9 months. A set of batteries (usually 24 volt) is going to run at minimum 80 bucks. Often if you get a used scooter or powerchair it will have useless lead acid batteries in it that should be immediately replaced.
Lithium batteries are quite expensive, more like 400-600, but will last 4-5 years.
There's fun potential here to do some reverse engineering or build programmable, customizable settings for a chair. Most wheelchairs and scooters are set to limit speed to 4-5 miles per hour. Maybe 10-12mph for the more powerful and expensive chairs. This has to take into account how much power you draw from the battery on a slope - going up or going down - to maintain a more or less consistent speed.
Plenty to know here but I don't know it. Someone else chime in !
People sometimes like to make art projects or robots from used wheelchairs. If you are doing this, consider getting a second chair and using your skills to fix it up and give it to someone who needs it. When you are taking used, but working, chairs out of the market that may make things harder for disabled people who are looking for something affordable. Something to keep in mind!