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Power Chair Review: The Puma

by Stephanie Mc Allister

 

Positive Negative
Option of FWD or RWD Low ground clearance
Option of 4mph or 6mph Lights are mounted too high on arm post
Adjustability Too many cable ties securing wiring
Profiles are programmed to users specification Seat riser ram protrudes leg rests in RWD
Seating options are immense Leg rests are bulky and heavy to remove
Powered options for seating, legs and back etc,  
Suspension creates a really comfortable ride  
Good range of colours for both chassis and seat  
After sales back up is excellent  
Robust construction and aesthetically pleasing  
   

 

Handicare’s Puma indoor/outdoor powerchair is a brilliant piece of equipment, as it can be set up specifically for the individual user’s need. You have a vast choice of seating options, from the cushion you sit on to the finished look of the fabric covering them. With the Sedeo seating system the end user chooses the seat cushion and back rest dependent on their personal needs; you also get the choice of which style headrest you want if one is required. On top of the seating cushions the chair is also totally adjustable in seat width; depth and back rest angle for when it gets delivered to you. If you have opted for any powered extras like the seat riser, recliner or adjustable back rest; you then have even more options when setting the comfort of your ride. After you have made your choice of cushions, you can then focus on what colour accents you would like them to be covered in. There are a few accent colours that really match well with the chassis colour and you should definitely take the advice of your dealer, on which of the colours match best as you have to be aware that fabric when exposed to sunlight will change over time more than the frame paint work; but the choices are endless.

Leg Rests

When choosing what option you should go with for your leg rests, there are a couple of things you should take into account. If you have gone for the powered leg rests, work out if it is important to be able to raise them together or individually; as they are a bulky part of the chair and very heavy to lift on and off the chair. So personally if you are not bothered or do not need them to rise individually I would recommend the footplate for two reasons. When you are indoors, the leg rests can take up vital inches required when turning, whereas the footplate is in closer to the frame but can also be flipped up out of the way in tight spaces. Obviously you may have a disability that prevents you from either taking the foot rests off or flipping the foot plate up to make more room; so this is when you really do need to work out with your dealer what would suit your circumstances and environment. I am lucky and can afford to take my leg rests off and wheel around the house without them, which allows me more space and the turning circle is a lot smaller; however I have also managed to run over my foot and this chair is not a light piece of equipment! This is where I would have benefitted from having an experienced dealer who could have raised these issues with me at the time of choosing what to go for when ordering the chair, but I at least now know that I will benefit from a footplate on my next chair.

Adjustability

In terms of adjustability this chair really is a masterpiece in the powerchair market. Not only can you make all of the adjustments mentioned with the seating above, but you can also change your centre of gravity (which dictates how far back the frame sits determining how nose heavy the chair is), but it is extremely versatile in little adjustments such as how far back or forward your leg rests can sit on the chair. Your dealer can also make an adjustment on how close or far they sit from each one, which is really good for working with the individual’s natural hip alignment. As with many chairs on the market you can change the length, height and angle of your footrests and the calf pads can also be adjusted in the height and depth of the end users requirements. The seat cushions and back rests are also easy to adjust and remove as they are attached to the chair via clips and clamps that are easy for the end user to use or the assistant if required. This makes it very easy if you require the back rest to come off the chair for transportation and it is just a case of unclipping two clamps which takes about 10secs to do. I personally don’t need to take my headrest of the back when removing it to transport, but if you would prefer to remove it; it is simply a case of unscrewing a butterfly bolt and the unit slides out whilst maintaining the angle you have pre set it to. When you are adjusting the headrest it is a two person job really, as the end user should be sat in their normal manner which will allow for an accurate angle to be determined. If the end user was to try to adjust it by themselves the difficulty is that they cannot be in the chair when doing so as it requires an Allen key and spanner. However I have mine set up so that it is tight enough to stay where it is set, but set so that I can make minor adjustments in the angle by using my two hands and head to manipulate the angle forwards and backwards to what I wish to have for that moment in time.

The Puma can be set up with indoor forks and castors or outdoor forks with suspension, which is what I have mine with; as I do a lot of activities in my chair outdoors and need my chair to be able to wheel over rough terrain when taking my dog out for walks or wheeling over fields when we go out as a family or to events in the community. Because my chair is set up more for when I am outdoors, it has meant that I had to sacrifice the smoothness of turning on carpets indoors than if I had the non suspension indoor forks; but for me it is a sacrifice that really has no bearing on my use.

Trialling the Chair FWD v. RWD

I did a 3 week trial of my chair set up with FWD (Front Wheel Drive) and I have to be honest, the benefits in my opinion far out way the chair being set up in RWD (Rear Wheel Drive), as I could get my knees completely under tables and the chair could be taken flush to seating when I wanted to transfer from the Puma to the seat. Also the turning circumference was like turning on the spot allowing for ease of going from room to room in tight spaces; I can totally see the logic of this being the preferred set up for people who work in offices or go to schools, as the chair is not as bulky as in RWD and it felt as though my chair suddenly shortened in the wheel base; I also found that I could really feel the suspension in the forks more than when the chair is set up in RWD and I did not experience any skidding of the back wheels at all, which you get in RWD as they are having to push power into them, whereas the castors at the rear are pulled along in FWD. Unfortunately I found it extremely difficult to steer and control and found that I could only keep the chair under control on a slow speed setting unless I was out in the open. I think that if I had only ever used the Puma in FWD I possibly would have found it easy to control, but I could not come to terms with the feeling of the chair sliding when turning as it totally disorientated my senses. If you are considering or do consider the Puma, I would really recommend you try the chair in the FWD option or maybe try it in both FWD and RWD and see which set up suits you better.

Negative Points

To briefly give you an explanation of my negative views, the low ground clearance can be a problem if you are loading the chair into a vehicle that does not have a level bed boot or rear. I currently drive a Kia Sedona and we have had to put a couple of sheets of wood in the rear to make the lip less of an obstacle, as the first time we loaded my chair in it we scraped the bottom plate as the front castors went past the lip. Thankfully it has since been retouched up by the engineer at Handicare. Also I find the lights being mounted on the arm post really irritating, as I like to use my lights to illuminate the ground ahead of me; but the thinking behind this set up seems to be that they are for people to see you.

As you can imagine, if you decide to tilt the seat a little for comfort when wheeling outside in the dark, you end up illuminating everything at about waist or chest height, whereas if they were mounted on the lower part of the frame, they would stay positioned on the ground. As I wheel around my house without my leg rests on because they are too bulky, I have found that the ram frame for raising the seat protrudes the front of the seat frame and I am always banging my calves on it and getting bruises from it. As I am not paralysed I can feel this, so I at least know that I have banged myself, but if you can’t feel this you could run the risk of blood clots. Obviously it is not always practical to say to an end user “so don’t take them off”, so I suggest you discuss your options of leg rests and whether you can keep them on all of the time, or if you require the flip up footplate, test drive a Puma with one. My only other gripe I have about the chair, is that it is absolutely encased in cable ties to keep all of the wiring secure. There actually isn’t any need for this, as they could look as where they could feed wires through the inside of the frame and if that isn’t an option, other manufacturers use a Velcro wrap for their cables. Not only is this more aesthetically pleasing, but it takes away any sharp edges such as cable ties leaves. I am forever cutting my knuckles and fingers when I am cleaning or sorting something out on my chair; but the bigger thing for me is that cable ties make it look as though the wires were an afterthought instead of really putting some consideration of the overall look of the chair.

 

 

 

 

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