Power Wheelchair Drive Controls

Other Categories for Physical Access:

Quick Take

Power Wheelchair drive controls (PWCs) consist of joysticks as well as specialty devices designed to control a wheelchair using other parts of the body. PWCs can also be used to control computers, phones and other devices when configured with the necessary electronics.

permobil joystick

Types of Power Wheelchair Controllers

Drive controls can be classified into two broad categories: proportional and non-proportional. Proportional products (also referred to as analog) act like traditional pointing devices such as a computer mouse or gaming joystick. They can move in any direction and offer fine control over speed. Successfully using proportional drive requires sufficient motor skills to manage subtle changes in speed and direction. Non-proportional drive controls (also referred to as digital) act more like a switch. Specific directions including forward, reverse, left and right are either on or off. Speed is set in a similar fashion. Proportional controls benefit people who have more significant physical challenges. 

Proportional Options

The image slider includes examples of:

  • Joysticks
  • Compact and mini joysticks
  • Touch devices
  • Proportional switch control
  • Proportional head control

Non-proportional Options:

The image slider includes examples of:

  • Proximity switches
  • Head Arrays
  • Sip and Puff
  • Eye Gaze
  • Scanning

Access Beyond the Wheelchair

Depending on the product, power wheelchair drive controls can also be used to operate computers, mobile phones and tablets which opens up a wide range of opportunity to participate in everyday activities. 

Possibilities include:


Access to augmentative and alternative communication devices (AAC)

Computers and Mobile

Control software applications on any computer, tablet or smart phone. Communicate via phone, email, text, social media, gaming, and video conferencing.

Home Control

Operate environmental control including lights, HVAC, media devices, locks, doors and windows, beds and much more.


  • Power Wheelchair drive controls are not consumer facing products. They should be prescribed by trained professionals due to the complexity involved in selecting an appropriate product
  • Compatibility between drive controls and power wheelchairs from different manufacturers is not universal
  • Not all drive controls provide access to devices other than the wheelchair. Those that do typically utilize Bluetooth technology but may also use Radio Frequency (RF) or less commonly Infrared (IR).
  • In many cases a separate control module is necessary for external device controls.
  • Learning to drive a power wheelchair requires training and adequate support particularly when using more specialized products

Category Notes

Primary Disabilities Supported

Work-Related Functions

  • Dexterity or grapho-motor weakness
  • Spasticity
  • Tremor
  • Neuropathy
  • Significant loss or motor function
  • Workstation / Computer Access
  • Mobile Device Access
  • Environmental control


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