When visiting many services around the UK, I frequently get asked how high can it kerb climb and how can I kerb climb consistently? As manufacturers, we always state in our owner’s manuals, brochures and website the maximum a chair can climb a kerb. However the challenge for our customers is that this is conducted in a controlled environment - dry floor, indoors and a clean obstacle. For clients however, there are many variables which affect them when using a powerchair and these variables inevitably can affect the success of climbing a kerb regardless of the powerchair they’re using.
These variables might include:
- Drive base (is it front, rear or mid wheel drive)
- Position of user’s centre of gravity
- Conditions of weather
- Conditions of the floor (cobbled or uneven)
- Conditions of kerb (rounded edge or slanted)
- Angle user attempts to climb
- Distance user approaches the kerb from
- Wheel size
- Motor type
As we can see from the above there are many different variables, therefore the question is how can I help my client get the most out of the chair to maximise kerb climbing consistency? The good thing is there are a couple of top tips that will ensure you can maximise the consistency of a chair’s ability to kerb climb, these are as follows:
Choice of Base
If kerb climbing 10 cm (4”) kerbs is highly essential to a client, then choosing the right base is vital. For kerb climbing the best powerchair base is a rear-wheel drive, this is because the castors are larger and then the chair tips back it maximises traction on the drive wheel for extra propulsion up the kerb.
At the handover of a chair, ensure the user’s centre of gravity is in the optimal position:
- For a mid-wheel drive - this is the user’s front torso position in the centre of the drive wheels.
- Rear wheel centre of gravity should be positioned slightly forward of the drive wheel to ensure maximum stability and traction but ensure the weight is not distributed over the castor wheels.
- Front wheel drive optimal centre of gravity position is slightly behind the drive wheels.
Centre of gravity adjustment is available on all our mid-high end powerchairs.
As a general rule, a chair will climb 1/3rd of the wheel that initially makes contact with the kerb, therefore the larger the wheel the better.
When handing over a product, it is always important that the client is aware of how the powerchair may work differently to their previous chair if applicable, as chairs do vary on how they kerb climb. For example, traditional rear wheel drives require the client to drive at a high speed to climb the kerb. However with, for instance, the QUICKIE Q400 R you can best achieve a kerb climb from either a standing start or by slowly approaching the kerb and ensuring the joystick is fully engaged while climbing the kerb. The benefits of this are that the client’s seated position is less affected by the impact of kerb climbing and the whole process is less traumatic.
However with all the above in mind I would always recommend to clients that kerb climbing should only be done as a last resort, before kerb climbing they should look for a drop kerb to use rather than a kerb and keep the side as smooth as possible!
By Sam Owen, Power Product Specialist, UK