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Control units and displays

Control units and displays for powerchairs

Integral controls

Basic powered wheelchairs come with integral controls, where one controller (eg a joystick) is used for all the wheelchair’s functions.

Modular controls

are available for more complex wheelchairs – different controls are used for different functions. The control unit can be fixed or hinged so that it swings away. Control units are usually mounted to one side of the wheelchair but can also be mounted centrally.

If hand controls aren’t suitable for you, there are other options including:

  • controls operated by the head, chin or tongue
  • ‘sip and puff’ controls
  • controls that use speech or eye-gaze technology

Main controls

Control units usually have a joystick or touchpad to control movement and buttons or switches for other functions. Think about whether you want a proportional control (where the amount you push or pull the
control affects speed) and how much tactile feedback you’ll need to use the controls.

Additional controls

Some powered wheelchairs have additional controls which let you:

  • set the maximum speed
  • set the powered wheelchair to turn off or sleep when the controls aren’t used for a period of time (saving battery)
  • lock the wheelchair to prevent other people from using it
  • use creep mode to automatically slow down or stop if the seat position makes the wheelchair unstable at speed.


You can get visual feedback about what the powered wheelchair is doing from the labelling of the controls, and sometimes from LEDs which show which controls are activated. Some powered wheelchairs may also have an indicator showing battery level or a touchscreen with menu options for different settings.

Last updated: May 2015

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