Can an electric wheelchair be pushed?

Electric wheelchairs can give individuals a huge amount of personal freedom.

can an electric wheelchair be pushed

For the most part they do not require any secondary assistance and enable the user to get out and about without having to rely on anyone else. However, one question we do quite often get is can an electric wheelchair be pushed?

The answer to this is yes. Most electric wheelchairs will allow you to push them manually. This can be done by disengaging the motors, for most chairs it is quite simple and can be done with a couple of clicks.

This can be helpful for several reasons, for example: If your battery runs out, or your chair breaks down. Or maybe you are out for a prolonged period and want to save the battery. In any of these situations you can push the chair manually.

Should you push your electric wheelchair manually

Most electric wheelchairs are designed with this feature, so it should not cause any problems with your chair. When the chair is pushed manually, the motors are disengaged, so it will not affect the motor function of the chair in any way. Plus, it is also unlikely this is something you will be doing regularly.

Most people have purchased an electric wheelchair to avoid needing secondary assistance. The chances are you will only need your chair pushing in a small number of circumstances. These would include the unlikely event that your electric wheelchair is unable to move, due to battery, or mechanical issues.

Another time it may be necessary to move your chair manually would be for storage, or transportation.

If your chair is not a folding electric wheelchair, you may need to wheel it into a storage space. This could be an area that is awkward to get in and out of whilst your sat in the chair. Such as a corner or a cupboard. In this instance having the option to use the chair manually is very convenient.

Another situation could be wheeling your wheelchair up a ramp into the back of a vehicle. To do this whilst sat in the chair could be dangerous. The process can be made quite easy by manually pushing your chair up the ramp.

Some common problems pushing an electric wheelchair

Whilst pushing your chair is fine, and the design allows for manual pushing, that does not mean there are no potential problems. Below are a few common issues that we have heard from electric wheelchair users:

  • Electric wheelchairs can be heavy. In fact, some of the heavier models of powerchair can be as heavy as 300lbs (165kg). Add the weight of the person sitting in the chair and this can become hard work quickly.

    This is particularly true, if you have any hills to contend with. Even a small incline with a heavy chair can become extremely hard work. If the person helping you is an elderly partner, friend, or relative, this could become a nearly impossible task.

    If you think pushing could be something that may be more frequent you should probably consider a lighter model, such as a lightweight folding electric wheelchair. You can learn more about different electric wheelchair weights here
  • Electric wheelchairs often do not have rear handles designed for pushing, or if they do, they are not adjustable. This is simply because being pushed is not the intended use for an electric wheelchair.

    This can make pushing an electric wheelchair challenging over long periods of time. Mainly because the person pushing may need to hunch, or bend to have their hands at the correct height. This has the potential to cause injury such as back pain and muscle strains.
  • The chair could be at risk of rolling on slopes. This is because the motors are disengaged, and the chair is now freewheeling. If the chair were left unattended, it could potentially roll away. Plus, it could become harder to stop rolling when travelling up, or down a steep incline.

Ways to avoid batteries running out.

Whilst you can push an electric wheelchair, most people will not want to do it on a regular basis. In fact, most people will want to avoid pushing their electric wheelchair entirely. After all, if you wanted a manual wheelchair that can be pushed, there are plenty of models designed for exactly that purpose.

Below we have listed our top ways to avoid your batteries running out, so you do not need to manually push your wheelchair:

  • Keep your battery well charged. This seems obvious, but it is one of the main reasons that a chair will need pushing. Most electric wheelchair batteries have substantial battery life and should not run out often. However, it does happen.

    Think of it like driving your car while the petrol light is on. You could risk it and maybe you will get away with it. But occasionally you will find yourself stuck on the hard shoulder, out of petrol, calling out roadside assistance.

    An electric wheelchair is no different, if you risk it too many times, eventually you will end up broken down and need to ask for help.
  • Carry spare batteries. Again, this seems like an obvious solution, but surprisingly many people do not have spare batteries for their electric wheelchairs. By carrying a spare, you will make it almost impossible to ever run out of battery.
  • Try to choose a chair that has decent battery life. There are chairs that range quite a bit in battery life. This can range from as low as 4 miles all the way up to 25+ miles. Obviously, a chair with a longer battery life is far less likely to run out of juice, even if you are out for extended periods of time.

Alternatives to pushing an electric wheelchair

Sometimes you may want to be pushed. This could be for any number of reasons, including difficulty operating the chair yourself, over long periods of time.

If this is the case then you do have the option to have someone push your electric chair, but as we have already mentioned this is not always the best solution.

Below are 3 possible alternatives that could be useful for those times you just do not want to operate your electric chair.

  • Have a spare manual transport wheelchair. These are often lightweight and in expensive. They are also specifically designed to be pushed. Their light weight and adjustable handles make them far easier to operate than pushing an electric chair.
  • Buy an electric chair with an assistant control. This solution will not help you if your battery runs out. But if you just want a rest, or if you occasionally struggle controlling your electric wheelchair yourself, an assistant control can be a useful feature.

    Assistant controls are usually wireless and allow a second person to take full control of the wheelchair. This completely removes the need for pushing your chair, giving the person helping complete control with minimum efforts.
  • Finally, if you do have decent upper body strength you could always try a self-propelled wheelchair. This option is not going to be for everyone, but if you have the strength to move a wheelchair with your arms, it could be a reasonable alternative.

    There are a few positives to a self-propelled chair. For starters they can give you a lot of independence that you would not get with an assisted chair. They are also a great form of exercise, which you would never get from an electric chair.

    You can even get motorised attachments that can be added to a self-propelled chair, effectively turning them into an electric wheelchair. If you wanted the best of both worlds, this could be a great solution and would almost completely remove the need to be pushed ever.


So, can an electric wheelchair be pushed? In this article I think we have shown that the answer to this question is yes, they can be. However, this is not their intended purpose. They are designed to be used as an electric wheelchair 95% of the time.

Pushing your electric wheelchair manually is something you may need to do occasionally and that is fine. But it is probably not the best way to use it over longer periods.

If you do want a wheelchair that can be pushed manually, there are plenty of better solutions.

We hope you found this article helpful. If you have any questions, please leave them in the comments below.   

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