If life rolls on


Practical tips on the transition to a powered wheelchair

As the condition progresses, the body of an ALS patient grows tired more often. These patients are then forced to transition into using a powered wheelchair. Many of them experience this transition as a serious mental barrier. How should patients and their surroundings handle this?

The use of electric aids is generally put off for as long a possible by ALS patients. A powered wheelchair after all evokes an emotional barrier for many patients. This procrastination can have negative consequences. It can lead to social isolation for ALS patients and prevent them from pursuing their favourite activities. The transition to a powered wheelchair then becomes inevitable.

Avoid the pain of procrastination

We therefore provide some practical tips for a smooth(er) transition to a powered wheelchair:

● Avoid the pain of procrastination. Even if they are mentally not quite ready, it is best that ALS patients have themselves measured for a mobility aid. The advantage is that the wheelchair will be ready almost immediately when the patient is ready for it.
● These measurements can be made by different experts: occupational therapists, physiotherapists or (technical) experts on supporting wheelchairs. These measurements need to be accurately used to guarantee optimal comfort for the user. It needs to take every aspect into account: the width, depth and height of the seat and the distance from the ground. The seat is adjusted in order to make getting in or out of the wheelchair easier.
● The lifestyle and the personal preferences of the patient are of utmost importance during this assessment. All the places the user goes to, need to be taken into account. Consider for example the size of the car, the furnishings and surroundings of the house, possible hobbies, and different aspects of his surroundings. People who, for example, choose to travel long(er) distances with their powered wheelchairs also need a battery powerful enough for those distances.
● Consider future needs as well. Wheelchairs with modular features are for example very important to people with progressive illnesses. As the condition progresses, it should be possible to add different foot rests, other features to improve posture and even electronic control systems. The wheelchair needs to be able to evolve in light of possible changing needs.


Once ALS patients acquire their own powered wheelchair, the transition seems to be easier than expected. An often-heard comment is that they regret not having started looking for such a wheelchair earlier.

This is obviously not that surprising. Every day without mobility is a lost day. Mobility moreover is synonymous with access to society.

Powered wheelchairs have also changed considerably over the years.

Looking for more information about powered wheelchairs? Contact ALS Liga België (ALS Mobility & Digitalk) or visit our website (www.ALS.be).


Translation: Katia Ombelets