Out And About – Mobility Wheelchairs And Vehicles

Having the ability to move from one place to another plays an important role in helping persons with disabilities get out of the house and become a part of the [...]

Having the ability to move from one place to another plays an important role in helping persons with disabilities get out of the house and become a part of the society. A mobility device, such as a wheelchair or a wheelchair accessible vehicle, acts as a catalyst to greater independence and social integration, enabling people with disabilities to be mobile, lead a healthy lifestyle and participate in community life.

Ms Poh Sho Siam, senior analyst of SPD’s advocacy team, introduces us to some of the more commonly seen mobility devices.

Manual Wheel Chair Manual Wheelchair

The manual wheelchair is propelled by the user by pushing on the rim. The wheelchair also has handles on the back so that it can be pushed by another person.

A typical manual wheelchair weighs between 16kg to 22kg. It is foldable and often comes with detachable parts such as wheels and arm rests for portability.

Powered Wheelchair

Image source: Google+

Powered Wheelchair

The powered wheelchair is an option for persons who have difficulty using their arms or do not have the upper body strength to self-propel a manual wheelchair.

Powered wheelchairs run on electricity and are propelled by a motor and rechargeable battery. They are usually controlled by a hand-operated joystick. They can typically travel between 3 to 6 miles per hour (5 to 10km/h) and a distance of 10 to 15 miles (16 to 24 km) per charge.

Mobility Scooter

Image source: Google +

Mobility Scooter

Mobility scooters run on electricity and are controlled by a steering tiller. They can be front-wheel drive or rear-wheel drive.

Users need to be able to sit upright and operate the controls safely.


When purchasing a wheelchair, users should consider their physical, medical and lifestyle needs and always seek proper assessment and training by a certified therapist.

In addition to these commonly seen mobility devices, there are various others available in other countries. Let’s take a look at some of them.


Stair-Climbing Wheelchair

These are powered wheelchairs that are capable of mounting kerbs and going up and down stairs. The wheelchair climbs stairs by means of two endless belt tracks that are lowered from under the chair and adjusted to the angle of the stairs, allowing the user to ascend and descend stairs while remaining in the wheelchair.

Stair-Climbing Wheelchair

Image source: TopChair

Sports Wheelchair

Sports wheelchairs are designed to have higher speeds and ease of manoeuvre. The wheels are angled (i.e. cambered wheels) for added stability. The frame is made of material that is sturdy enough to withstand rough handling during sports but yet lightweight enough for agility.

Tennis Wheelchair

Tennis Wheelchair

Racing Wheelchair

Racing Wheelchair

Images source: Wolturnus

All-Terrain Wheelchair

All-terrain wheelchairs provide the user with opportunities for outdoor ventures further than what most other wheelchairs would allow. Designed with different functional wheels and different powered capabilities, they give the user the choice to go to places with different conditions and terrains, for example, to travel over grass, gravel, sand, snow and other rough surfaces.

Beach wheelchair

Beach Wheelchair


All Terrain Wheelchair

All-terrain Wheelchair

Image source: All Terrain Wheelchairs


A handcycle allows riders to propel using their arms instead of their feet. It is mostly in the form of a tricycle, with two coasting rear wheels and one steering front wheel.

Handcycling is also a form of exercise to improve cardiovascular health and increase upper-body strength as well as a recreational activity to ride with family and friends.


Hand Bicycles

Image source: Sun Bicycles


Drive-from-Wheelchair vehicles 

 Drive-from-Wheelchair Vehicles

Image source: GM CoachWork Group

Drive-from-Wheelchair Vehicles

In the United States and the United Kingdom, vehicles can be converted for wheelchair users to drive from their wheelchairs.

Conversions could include the installation of remote operated tailgate and ramp for wheelchair access, hand controls, wheelchair docking devices, and removable and interchangeable front seats so that a wheelchair user could drive from a wheelchair or travel in a wheelchair in the passenger position.

In Singapore, approval from the Land Transport Authority is required for certain vehicle modifications so as to ensure the safety of all road users.

 Conquest Wheelchair Motorcycle

Image source: Mobility Conquest

Conquest Wheelchair Motorcycle

This wheelchair accessible three-wheeled motorcycle has a drop-down ramp at the rear of the vehicle that can be controlled remotely. It allows the rider to pull his or her wheelchair into position and secure it with a push-button docking system, and drive directly from the wheelchair. The controls can all be operated by hand.

 Kenguru, the Electric Car

Image source: Kenguru

Kenguru, the Electric Car

The Kenguru is an electric car for one-person use. The driver presses a remote control to open the pop-up back door. A short ramp descends, and the wheelchair user can roll into the driver’s area. The driver controls the vehicle via motorcycle-style handlebars.

The Kenguru can travel a distance of 45 to 60 miles (70 to 95km) per charge and its speech can go up to 25 miles per hour (40 km/h).

It is expected to be commercially available in the United States in 2015.

Besides various mobility devices that help persons with disabilities to be out and about, greater accessibility to public facilities, amenities and transport will make it easier for persons with disabilities to step out and engage in more community activities. We hope to encourage city and building planners to take into account the needs of persons with disabilities so that they can participate in the community as active members and not spectators on the sidelines.

This content has been put together with references from several organisations’ websites, including All Terrain Wheelchairs Ltd (UK), Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (US), Disabled Sports USA, Disabled World (US), GM CoachWork Group (UK), Hoveround Corporation (US), Kenguru (US), Mobility Conquest (US), Muscular Dystrophy Association Inc. (US), One.Motoring (Singapore), TopChair SAS (France) and U.S. Medical Supplies.