In my article How to Choose a Perfect Power Chair, I outlined my steps to look for…well, a perfect power wheelchair. In January 2021, it was time to research my options and try each chair that met my specifications. Hopefully, one wheelchair would “fit” just like Cinderella’s glass slipper.
But it’s never that easy. Or is it?
Replacing my trusty Quickie Power Chair
The wheelchair I was replacing was my five-year-old Quickie QM-710. This chair was great at off-roading (a must) and never caused me any downtime due to mechanical issues (another must). But the front casters stuck out so wide that my kitchen and bathroom cabinets, van, and nearly everything else in my life had taken a beating during the previous five years.
I don’t like change, but those casters needed to go.
My spreadsheet of power wheelchairs
Do I seriously make a spreadsheet? Yes. Why? Um, just because. It helps me keep track of all my options. Which weren’t many.
When it was time to research the current power wheelchairs on the market, I knew what I wanted and needed:
- Mid-wheel drive
- A narrow base
- A low back
- Flip-back desk-length armrests
- Legrests with power elevation and actuation
- Seat elevation
- 14-inch x 18-inch seat width and length
Power wheelchair manufacturers are making chairs bigger—not necessarily better—in my opinion. I don’t want a high backrest which prevents me from using the push handles to stabilize my upper body when I open doors. I want short armrests so I can pull up close to my desk or restaurant tables. I need a chair low enough to the floor, so I can pick up the innumerable things I drop. And I want—no need—a chair that is the proper width.
But only one major wheelchair manufacturer offered a 14-inch wide seat: Quantum.
Seriously? The narrowest seat width for Permobil and Invacare is 16 to 17 inches; Quickie is now only offering 15 inches and up. In the past, Quickie and Invacare offered 14-inch seat widths.
A narrow base
I heard about the Quantum Stretto power wheelchair and its narrow base. The Quickie Q 300 Mini was its new competitor. I looked at both chairs, but the 14-inch seat width was the determining factor.
I have to say, I’ve been impressed.
The wheelbase for the Stretto is 21.75 inches with 14-inch wheels. That’s a whopping two inches narrower than other chairs. The Stretto has an option of 12.5-inch by 2-inch wheels that make the chair 20 inches wide, but I wanted the larger wheels for better outdoor performance.
The 5-inch front and 6-inch rear casters are in line with the base, so that cleared up several inches for my cabinets to breathe a sigh of relief. Although the floor-to-chair height was 17.5 inches (whereas the Quickie Q 300 Mini was 16.5 inches), at least the Stretto was the same height as the chair I was replacing.
Below I’ll review the pros and cons of the various features of the Stretto.
Overall, the Quantum Stretto has performed very well both indoors and outdoors. I’ve taken the chair through gravel, grass, rough terrain, and steep inclines—all without a problem.
Yes, the Stretto is a mid-wheel drive, but the drive wheels sit a bit more in front of me than my last chair. This gives the chair a fish-tail feel when making tight or fast turns. I’ve also hit a few objects with my rear casters since the turning radius is different due to wheel placement. But these are things I’ll get used to in time.
Back canes, backrest, and cushion
I stayed with 17-inch back canes with a Jay3 backrest and Low Profile Roho. At my initial seating, we adjusted the chair. But after one week, I still felt uncomfortable. Plus, I had a red spot on my tush. The seating specialist pressure-mapped me, changed the position of the back canes and backrest, as well as adjusted the inflation of the cushion. After we tweaked my backrest (not just once, but twice), we found the perfect seating position.
Remember, the first few weeks in a new chair will rarely be “just right,” much less comfortable. Make a list of items to tweak and get an appointment to adjust the wheelchair. And adjust the chair again if you’re not comfortable or satisfied.
iLevel seat elevation
I had the elevate feature on my Quickie, but it would move so slowly in the elevated position that I rarely used it. The iLevel technology allows the user to be fully elevated at 12 inches and go 3.5 miles per hour in the elevated position. The iLevel technology is fast and quiet.
Smooth Ride Suspension
The QM-710’s SpiderTrac suspension had spoiled me with its outdoor performance. But the SRS (Smooth Ride Suspension) on the Stretto has performed very well.
Initially, I did have some issues with going up small curbs or bumps, and even up the ramp of my van. But once the Quantum representative adjusted the suspension, I’ve not had a single problem indoors or out. Small curbs, steep inclines, grass, gravel, and rough sidewalks haven’t stopped me yet.
My biggest disappointments
I wanted power elevation and articulating legrests. This means the legrests can be elevated when needed. I expected the Quantum articulation to include the ability to adjust the height of the footrest—as it did in my Quickie. This feature comes in handy when shoes have different heel or sole heights. Unfortunately, the Quantum chairs only articulate (lengthen) when using the leg elevation feature. With my long legs, the footrests don’t extend enough to make this feature worth having. The lack of length in the foot elevation and the inability to raise or lower the footplate is my biggest disappointment with this chair.
My favorite features
My favorite features come standard on the Stretto: the front and rear fender lights, and a USB charger. On most power chairs, those features are an upcharge. Call me crazy, but sometimes it’s the little things that make me happy.
Features that could be improved on the Quantum Stretto
These are minor complaints, but these are problems that can and should be improved in my opinion:
- The flip-back armrests don’t go back more than 90 degrees, therefore the post of the armrest isn’t behind the backrest. For transfers, this can be a problem, especially when you can’t feel your back rubbing on the pole of the armrest.
- The footrest isn’t completely flat. Where the footrest attaches to the leg rest, there’s a quarter-inch bump. When I adjust my feet and legs, my heels tend to get pulled back and rest on the bump, increasing the height of my knees, as well as putting more pressure on the bottom of my foot.
- One feature I’d love to see is an indicator of the degree of tilt on the joystick screen. This is important to not destroy one’s knees when returning to a lower table.
- As a repeat of my biggest disappointment, the power leg elevation and articulation needs improvement to make it usable.
Am I happy with the Quantum Stretto power wheelchair?
Despite my lack of options when researching a power wheelchair, the Quantum Edge 3 Stretto with iLevel technology has been an almost perfect fit. With all of the features and options Quantum offers, I’d say the Stretto fits me as well as that glass slipper fit Cinderella.
And that’s a great way to begin the next five to seven years with a new wheelchair.
- Work closely with a seating specialist and/or ATP. They should know the latest models and newest features.
- Do your research. Go to the manufacturers’ websites and look at the features each one offers. Get familiar with the available options, such as the seat width and depth, turn radius, base width, tilt or recline features, ground clearance, and warranty. I recommend doing this before you meet with the seating specialist or ATP.
- Ask a tech from the DME company you use for their opinion. What make have they seen the fewest problems with? Which chair breaks down the most? Which has the best warranty? Does the DME company have common parts in stock for each manufacturer?
- Get feedback from others in the SCI/D community about their experience. In the past, Quantum didn’t have a great reputation; that has changed significantly in the past seven or so years.