The Dirt on Accessible Vacuums

By Barbara & Jim Twardowski

Vacuuming from a wheelchair can be difficult and for me—dangerous. While pushing my vacuum across the living room floor, the cord became wrapped around the front tire of my power wheelchair. Dragging the vacuum behind me, I managed to reach a phone and called my friend, Bob, who has an impressive array of tools, a great deal of patience and a sense of humor. After I transferred to a dining room chair, Bob turned my 300-pound wheelchair upside down and examined the tangled mess I had made. To separate the vacuum from the wheelchair required removing a tire. Once the vacuum was free, he applied electrical tape to the gnawed cord.

After my disastrous attempt at house cleaning, I promised my husband and friends I would stop vacuuming. But I can't keep that promise because our household includes an 85-pound golden retriever. Teddy doesn't shed—he molts. My home needs to be vacuumed several times a week; a more fastidious housekeeper would say daily. 

I've been evaluating the various vacuums on the market and took a look at three models. Each of these machines is music to the ears of someone with physical limitations.

Hoover Air Cordless

After my fiasco vacuuming, I took a look at several cordless vacuums. Many of the models on the market are hand vacs on a stick. These might work in a college dorm room, but they don't have the oomph to clean the voluminous amount of dog hair covering our floors, rugs and couch.

Cordless, steearable vacuum

The Hoover Air Cordless is a powerful machine weighing just under 10 pounds. Because I have weak hands, the weight is extremely important to me. The "On" button is positioned at about waist height making it easy to reach from a wheelchair. An additional button is for "Carpet" and "Hard Floor" settings. The suction increases for "Carpet" and requires more strength to maneuver. A bright headlight illuminates the path as you glide the vacuum across the floor.

A big concern I had regarding cordless machines was how to charge them and how long a charge lasts. One of the best features of the Hoover is it comes with two LithiumLife batteries—each works for up to 50 minutes—which is way more time than I would spend. One battery is plugged into the charger and always ready. After vacuuming, the clear canister is removed with the push of a button and can easily be emptied over a trash can.  The manufacturer recommends the filter be cleaned after every three or four uses. Dog hair does get trapped on the roller brush, but my husband pops it out and cleans it. The compact size of the vacuum makes it easy to store in a small closet.

Roomba 880 by iRobot

Robot Vacuum

I love the idea of a robot cleaning my house. Who doesn't? The iRobot Roomba 880 is the newest version from the company that introduced its first robot vacuum more than a decade ago. Quieter than conventional vacuums, the Roomba emits a low hum. The machine weighs under 9 pounds. Twirling round and round it makes a larger circle brushing bits of dirt into a bin. The Roomba can be programmed to clean every day at a specific time. The vacuum is less than 4 inches tall, the perfect height for cleaning dust bunnies from under our bed, but too tall for sliding underneath our armoire.

The vacuum is supposed to return to the docking station when a room is clean. However, our Roomba never could quite manage to park himself and had to be physically placed on the charger. The dirt receptacle is too small for the amount of fur in our house. Although, I do have a friend who has two miniature dachshunds and thinks the Roomba does a fine job. Even if I owned a Roomba, I would still need an upright for those messes requiring immediate attention and to clean things the Roomba cannot manage such as the couch, blinds or steps.

Dyson Cinetic Big Ball Animal Allergy

Just released in 2015, this new Dyson is mounted on a ball with a lower center of gravity which makes maneuvering around furniture easier. The engineers at Dyson spent six years and almost $12 million developing this product, which promises to "never lose suction." The machine is a workhorse. The bagless vacuum has a canister, so you can see the dirt and hair that's removed from your home.

Vacuum for shedding dog

One of the best features of this Dyson is what it doesn't have—a filter. I'll confess, I've never been as methodical about cleaning a dirty filter as the instructions recommend. With this vacuum, you never clean, change or replace a filter! My husband cleaned our house and everything smelled noticeably fresher when he was done. The Dyson weighs close to 20 lbs. and has a 35-foot cord as well as several attachments for cleaning additional surfaces. This hardworking vacuum is ideal for households with pets or family members who have allergies. The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of American has even certified the vacuum to be "allergy and asthma friendly."

Accessible Vacuum

Buying Tips for the Savvy Consumer

Vacuum manufacturers are continually improving their products and introducing new machines. There are dozens of vacuums from which to choose. Before making a purchase, decide who is the primary user. Read product reviews. If possible, try the vacuum in the store. Always know the store's return policy before buying. And don't forget to check the manufacturer's websites for special offers.

Every home needs a good quality vacuum. To find the machine that is best for your household's unique needs, take your time shopping and compare all the options. 

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About the authors:

Barbara and Jim Twardowski are freelance writers specializing in disability and travel topics. Their articles can be seen in AAA Home & Away, Global Traveler, Quest and many other outlets.

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