Published 4/05, Copyright 2005,

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For decades, the term "portable powerchair" was most often an oxymoron - that is, bulky, heavy powerchairs were the antithesis of portability.  Sure, you could long buy powerchairs that disassembled, but, even so, their components remained bulky and heavy.  However, the new class of power mobility is more akin to true portability - compact, light, and storable - ushering a whole new class of product:  The travel powerchair.

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As one may assume by their purpose, travel powerchairs from the start are ultra compact, with most under 22" wide and 35" long, with complete weights less than 80lbs.  Adding to the compact footprint, 5" or 6" casters and 8" drive wheels are the common configuration, as is a tightly tucked footplate.  On top of the powerbase, travel powerchair seating ranges from a nylon sling, to a composite seat, to a captain's chair.  What you won't find is high-end rehab seating; however, remember, these are portable powerchairs chairs, after all.

And, it's within the area of portability where travel powerchairs excel.  Toward transporting travel powerchairs, most breakdown into several components, with the heaviest pieces 40lbs. or less.  To disassemble the chair, one removes the seat, lifts out the battery pack, then folds or disassembles the base.  The result is a powerchair divided into transportable components, readily liftable by most, and storable in an automobile trunk.

Beyond transportability, most travel powerchairs are somewhat limited in their performance, as is expected for such small powerchairs.  Maximum speeds hover at 3mph to 4mph, with 12ah to 17ah batteries powering 50A PGDT and Dynamic controllers to battery ranges approximately half of that of a full-size powerchair.  No, a travel powerchair won't take you farther, faster than larger powerchairs; however, the performance of a travel powerchair on well-groomed hard surfaces is surprisingly practical, as with cruising from the car to the mall, or browsing a flea-market.

Indoors, travel powerchairs shine, offering an exceptionally compact base for maneuvering in tight spaces.  In fact, for scooter users who need extra maneuverability indoors, a travel powerchair can make an ideal supplement.

While travel powerchairs lend themselves most naturally toward light-rehab users, they also have an application toward full-time powerchair users.  For those without complex seating and positioning needs, a travel chair can prove as supplemental mobility, allowing true transportability in unmodified vehicles.  A travel powerchair may not meet a rehab user's full-time needs, but may prove meaningful toward tossing it into a friend's car, and heading off to a concert or ballgame.

Travel powerchair MSRPs begin at $2,555, and mobility discounters price them in the $1,550 range.  On the insurance side, most travel powerchairs at this time aren't reimbursable, sold as consumer-funded products; however, since travel powerchairs prove as very meaningful mobility for some, an insurance-approved classification may evolve in time.

Indeed, travel powerchairs are a mobility breed of in its own right, creating ultra-compact, highly-maneuverable, transportable power mobility.  A travel powerchair won't beat its larger cousins in speed, range, or positioning.  However, with a travel powerchair, you can toss it in a trunk, and head off to your favorite hotspot.  And, when it comes to transporting powerchairs, merely getting somewhere can often mean winning half of the battle.

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