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Updated:  18-Jun-10

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Invacare Spectra Plus Power Wheelchair
A look at the Invacare Spectra Plus Powerchair as often provided by the UK's Wheelchair Services.  Sold as a "small" Indoor/Outdoor Powerchair that can have rehab seating.  And its cheap.  So these kind of "Experts" just love it...  

This page applies to MOST small cheap electric wheelchairs and isn't just about the Spectra Plus and remember that its actually BETTER than chairs like the Harrier!  God forbid... This is an example of everything bad rolled into one device


Amazingly compared to some "Full Sized" top end Indoor/Outdoor Powerchair alternatives such as my own here an Invacare Spectra Plus Powerchair manages to be both wider and longer (especially with the rear wheels being so much behind you). It makes turning into doorways a nightmare indoors.

Its also slower and much less manoeuvrable than so called FULL SIZED and FULL POWER top end rehab style Powerchairs...

Its also less powerful with less range (smaller batteries) and is bigger dimensionally and far less controllable indoors and almost completely useless outdoors with its small hard wheels and slow speed while being uglier and more old fashioned at the same time!  Quite a trick!  It manages to be spectacularly bad at both indoor and outdoor use and doesn't do a SINGLE thing as well as my own off road / indoor / outdoor "full power" faster modified F55s powerchair does! Not a single one!

Quite how they managed to do all of that stuff worse than a supposed "full sized" very capable outdoor powerchair fitted with big fat off road tyres and bigger motors and batteries and high power control system absolutely dumbfounds me!  You would at least expect it to be better indoors! Its actually much worse. Mostly because its so long in front of the drive wheels. Like an oil tanker..

Built by a committee (team) of specialist OT's and Physios and bean counters. And obviously not one of them understands even the very basics of powerchairs. They are all fully trained up in "seating" "posture" etc and don't get the physics or electrics or dynamics of a powerchair. If they did they would never have created this hopelessly incapable device of torture.  Or at least they should have specified that it is only of real use in big wide hospital corridors or old peoples residential homes and moving slowly in big arcs..

They are not alone though. ALL cheap "small" (although big and spindly would be a better name) powerchairs are amazingly, just as bad.  So the same or similar comments goes equally for all the other cheap and hateful powerchairs like the "Invacare harrier" (amazingly even worse!) and Sunrise (add any cheap powerchair here like rumba etc) models. All of these are offered as a cheap solutions by the UK's wheelchair services after they, ahem,  "assess" you! 

Frankly I doubt they could assess a cheese sandwich properly and I never met an OT or any industry professionals yet with any real clue about wheelchair design.  They just don't get the mechanics, the physics, or any part of how powerchairs actually work.

They only read specs sheets and know maximum weights limits specified (but not why!) and what seating options are available etc. So after they have "assessed" you a for the cheap barely motorised Harrier or Spectre Plus (or similar) powerchair they start on the seating.

Please excuse my lack of confidence in the "experts" but I have met hundreds in many places from manufacturers, to hospitals. And NEVER found one with any real engineering clue.



This one has the fancy seating fitted making it longer and more nose heavy and less capable indoors than an already dismal stock one. I suggest you avoid this option unless you are very light (steering response issues due to rearward rear wheels and forward c of g position) and live in a very large house!

Invacare Spectre Plus

In an attempt to make the chair much wider than necessary the manufacturer chooses to fit the control pod onto the outside of the arm!  Here it is folded back but it still sticks out and forwards to hit every door frame neatly... Many manufacturers do this daft trick. It means it hits every door frame and you lose fingers...  Also notice the oil tanker wheelbase length here, compared to the much shorter one on my own outdoor chair which is almost mid wheeled.  And the small very hard caster wheels and the anti tip wheels that get caught up every time you leave a curb! And the 12 inch long push handles that hit every wall when you try to turn around.  Yummy... What are they on???

Seating. One of the perceived plus points of this Invacare Spectre Plus is that its one of few cheap powerchairs with so many options. Rehab seating.  This is the bit the "experts" think they understand after going on a course or something... If they "assess" that you need it. 

Trust me if you are a typical active paraplegic or quadriplegic you really don't!  It HINDERS a powerchair in so many other ways in many cases. Unless you have no choice and really do need that seat riser/leg elevator etc. Tilt seats alone have no real downsides usually though. But check it doesn't mean the seat is higher or even further forwards than a stock chair. In some cases it does. All these cheap chairs are way too nose heavy already for sensible control and manoeuvrability. And these options add weight to an already very flimsy flexible underpowered design.

The only advantage any of these small batteried 4mph motorised deck chairs have over a "full size" is one of cost. It does cost less to throw it in the skip when you realise how bad they are though!  The full size refers to batteries, control systems, motors, wheels, not physical dimensions.

Of course if you don't really "use" the power chair much you will never realise its lack of ability!  This chair is ideal as a temporary solution for while you get better after an injury or similar. Its really not a lifestyle tool or full time powerchair solution for the likes of the average active paraplegics / quads etc  Or any long term user that cant get out and walk or transfer easily.

There's one here at my house for repairs at the moment (Invacare Spectra Plus). Not mine I hasten to add!. Its hard work trying to get about the house without hitting door frames etc. Its just so frustrating and clumsy. It cannot turn around in my own bathroom. (my "big" do everything powerchair can pretty easily)

Its wheelbase is just too long. (Like almost all production rear drive powerchairs). Its programming is so delayed and damped you simply can't steer properly. It hasn't the power to steer at all on thick carpet!  Pretty crap then for a chair DESIGNED as indoor capable!

This delay and difficult control isn't unusual because almost all powerchairs start off like this until "repaired" slightly by some reprogramming.  Although many are never exactly brilliant like this one due to small undersized batteries/motors/controllers. This of course depends on your expectations and previous experiences and your body weight too.

If I venture into the street its just plain ungainly, very slow and lurches about. It has no suspension, and small very hard tyres. Crashing HORRIBLY from one tiny crack in our pavements to the next as its small solid casters jam and follow ridges.  Its totally out of its depth in the street.  If you plan on using a chair outdoors then buy something else because this chair and all the cheap "clones" are just as unsuitable.

It causes me masses of muscle spasm and hurts my spine in the few minutes I tried it.  Its uncontrollable and unbelievably uncomfortable over any slightly more uneven stuff (much of the outside world is very uneven in case you have never noticed!) and frankly dangerously slow too, should you ever try to cross a busy road junction for e.g..

Invacare Spectre Plus Power Wheelchair

If money is a big problem and you never go far or only run on flat surfaces like shopping centres or indoors where there are wide doors then it may be perfectly ok for you. But for any active full time user its just torture and absolutely unsuitable and unusable.

Range is limited by its batteries (you need full sized group 24 -  70ah sized ones for a sensible range in the real world no matter what the spec sheet will tell you.) although outdoors the sheer uncomfortable ride and the toll it takes on my spine and probably skin damage on my backside as it rattles me around, and its boring slow speed, all limit it more than its batteries for me!

  • Width is as wide with my normal 18 inch cushion fitted as my much more capable chair here Actually since the control pod is mounted on the outside of the arm its actually a good bit wider... The thing measures more than the claimed figure.

  • Same with length. The Invacare Spectre Plus is longer and less manoeuvrable indoors with a very nose heavy attitude and feels like an oil tanker.  Its rear wheels are too far back! Its not alone here most powerchairs in this class are much the same.  Bad for control, and bad for doorways etc indoors and the extra effort required by the motors to steer eats batteries faster too.

  • Seat Height is also higher than need be with the usual desk and restaurant tables issues that this causes. A high seat is a problem. A low seat that can be adjusted higher for transferring to beds, vehicle seats etc to your desired height. So not good here either.

Programming is dismal further hindering control like all new powerchairs (can be fixed if you can get hold of a suitable programmer), battery power (capacity) wheel and caster size are all smaller than a "full sized" chair giving much of the rough ride issues outdoors.

Motors and controllers are smaller than true full sized powerchairs such as my own chair here even though this Spectra chair is dimensionally a little bigger. The effect is similar to say a "basic" small engine car, compared to a fully loaded larger engine 4 wheel drive version of the same car. The basic one is just barely adequate.  Both the same physical size but one is fully loaded and the other is an empty shell...  The difference is cost.

The swing away footrests hit every door frame too. A single footplate is preferable if you can use one since its central and doesn't get in the way when in small spaces or hit furniture or table legs etc. Again this applies to every chair. But if you like damaged furniture and door frames then the OTs favourite "swing away" ones are ideal!

invacare Spectra PlusHere follows an independent email review that I received from a user of one of these chairs!

John,

I was looking at your modified F55 as my wife is now fed up with trying
all manner of useless chairs and the only solution seems to be the DIY
route.

We live in a fairly large house and every powerchair we have
tried ends up trashing the walls and furniture as they are far too long
and wide. (This includes mid drive 6 wheel chairs- ED).

The Invacare Spectra currently on eBay is a case in point. The
riser function is great but what's not mentioned is the extra 4" in
length over the standard chair as the seat frame is pushed further
forward to keep the C of G in a "safe" position. Unless you live in an
open-plan barn it's useless!  Due to the extra length it also grounds on
the anti-tip rollers when using the ramp in our converted Renault Kangoo
and you end up stuck half way in with no traction to get back out.

I despair with the designers of these things who seem to use able bodied
testers and wide open spaces when developing the next wonder-chair...

All the best,

Paul Stephenson

Acknowledgment - The photos on this page are also Pauls that were sent with this email.

 


Comparison of width and length of a Invacare Spectre Plus powerchair and my own home built power wheelchair.

Below entering my van is my own very capable "full sized" top en powerchair - it is shorter but also equally as narrow as the Spectra Plus (and almost all powerchairs)  But this is a go anywhere "big" outdoor / indoor / off road powerchair. Its narrower across the arms too!  And its the same width across the wheels!  It manages that with huge batteries and motors, as well as big fat comfortable easy riding balloon tyres. It also has no footrests sticking out in the corners to hit door frames etc. But this picture is really here just to show the width in comparison to the Spectre Plus in the second image below this one.

Its also worth noticing how much shorter the Invacare Spectra Plus could be. Check out the photo of my full sized chair below, compare length and wheelbase to the large photos of the Spectra Plus further up this page! This Spectra wheelchair is very long!  That makes for bad indoor capability when trying to manoeuvre. And there's no reason for the width or length issues since they only have to fit small motors / wheels / batteries in there!  Its just plain bad design.

r

Not a brilliant photo (below) unfortunately but this is the spindly looking shorter range, slower, underpowered & less manoeuvrable Invacare Spectra Plus leaving a similar Chrysler Van on an identical ramp to mine above...

Look at the width of the rear wheels on the ramp. This shows that its wheel track is the same as my "full sized" full powered powerchair (2nd pic above). If I could make my home built wheelchair above this narrow with its huge tyres/batteries and bigger motors then just what were they thinking?

Unfortunately they are not alone here and almost every "cheap" lightweight 4mph powerchair is much the same as this Spectra Plus.  Unnecessarily wide, long and sometimes high. You probably gathered that I don't much like this powerchair! And you would be right. Its got all the disadvantages possible rolled in to one chair!  But much the same applies to almost every "small" cheap 4mph powerchair.  They have few if *any advantages over a full sized and faster true indoor outdoor powerchair. In fact they do almost everything worse.  *Other than price and weight.

See Detailed PowerChair Only Menu    Wheelchair Width

Forum thread about this chair here! http://www.wheelchairdriver.com/board/viewtopic.php?f=6&t=101

 

 

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