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John Williamson

Dragon and Snap Dragon kids (Paediatric) Powerchairs

Children's Powerchairs are always a problem. Kids (and adults!) come in a variety of sizes.

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The average life realistically of a Kids Powerchair is three to four years. Or any powerchair for that matter. This makes it harder still to choose a kids powerchair.

But an adults chair tends to last longer if only because they generally get an easier life and because adults don't grow!  Corrosion, wear and tear and better technology means that this is usually the right time to move on - especially with kids.

So what's the right size for a kids powerchair?  Sit your child down on an existing manual wheelchair and get a ruler or tape measure!

Now measure your child's WIDEST part!  That will usually be across the shoulders, arms or thighs. Write it down.

Do the same with "length". Using a manual wheelchair, measure total length from the back of the head to the tips of their toes when seated. Ignore wheels.

Don't do it diagonally but along the floor!  Its the total length between two imaginary walls we are interested in.

Now if this was for an adult we would be done with measurements. But now we need to estimate approx how big your child will be in 3 years time. You know your child. Have a look at the average size/weights of kids at different ages (on the internet?) and write down what you THINK at your best estimate that your child future measurements (width / total seated length) is likely to be.

Why is this important? Because every single inch in a powerchairs dimensions is extremely important.

A power wheelchair should be no bigger in total width or length than the seated occupant is in an ideal world. If it is then it hinders movement. It prevents freedom of movement around people, furniture, etc. Even wide doors, because we don't want to have to "line up" accurately hundreds of times a day to be sure of not hitting anything, its tiring!

And small is good to be able to get very close to worktops, cupboards, desks etc for easy reach. And for ease of transport. And easy transferring.

So ideally you are looking for a powerchair that is the same size as your measurements maximum dimensions as measured above. This applies to adults in powerchairs too. My own personal powerchair is the same width as I am, and considerably shorter than my own seated length because my feet are big!  If that's not the case then the powerchair is actually bigger than it needed to be usually by bad design or choice.

There are very few "real" kids powerchairs available though so your choice here is going to be very limited. The point of all this is to allow you to see the issues and choose wisely. Don't just listen to the "experts" or be "assessed" other than to listen to their comments for other additional ideas. Because I have yet to find one with any clue whatsoever about powerchairs. Many are good with seating but pretty clueless about powerchair dynamics.

Most kids powerchairs are actually just adults powerchairs with a small seat stuck on top instead. Such is the imagination of the big manufacturer / designer. As such seat height as well as length and width are wildly too big for the small user!  But then "they" don't have to use it do they...

So eventually we get to the kids Dragon and Snap Dragon Powerchair assessment aimed at children only. Adults (unless very small) need not apply!

To begin with lets look at its length. At 41 inches (best case scenario with seating options and positions) its pretty long! My own full sized powerchair designed for myself and a 20 stone adult is actually shorter. And that includes a very generous deep footplate. So this may concern you.

This is a consequence of it being front wheel drive. Now some people like front drive powerchairs. That's fine, but I don't! It means natural "instability" or fish tailing and less positive control at speed (and this is an 8mph powerchair which is faster than most). It also means that there is a big chunk of wheelchair/batteries swinging about behind you as you manoeuvre in tight spaces.

They chose this layout to allow fancy seating options. For that information you will need to visit their website. http://www.dragonmobility.com/ But to me a mobility devices primary purpose is to be good at mobility! And making it have some fancy trick seating moves means that mobility is compromised to a degree. It depends which is most important to you (or rather your child). But I suspect they will spend the majority of their time with the seat in its normal position.

It is narrower than my own full sized powerchair. It is almost 24 inches wide. My own adults powerchair for a heavy male adult is just a fraction over 25 inches wide. About 1.5 inches difference only!  That is too wide for a small child. It not just about if it will fit through a door!  The reason for the width is the use of fairly large batteries, allowing 8mph performance and good range. But lots of width. A better compromise would have been 6mph, smaller batteries and a narrower powerchair in my opinion.

Controller. Most powerchairs use Controllers from a small variety of large established companies such as Penny & Giles, Dynamic etc. This chair uses its own companies controller. This would worry me slightly, if only because its an unknown quantity as far as programmability, capability, and reliability.  I also don't know how many "amps" this system has. I would ask if buying. And expect at least 50 to 70 (or above) or it will not have much power with its 8mph gearing/speed.

I suggest you try it before you buy one (and as many other chairs as possible) if you can do so. And for more than a few minutes! Test it at full speed etc as a stability check. And around the house for ease of manoeuvrability. It seems to boil down to seating functions versus size. And which is best for your child. And of course good competition is very thin on the ground so there may not be that many "smaller" chairs to look at!


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