The Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990 and subsequent amendments to it have had an undeniable impact on how those with disabilities and limited mobility are able to participate in society. While some would argue that there still is work to be done on discrimination issues, there has been tremendous improvements in accessibility. "It's created more opportunities to get work, to get on a bus. That was something that was hard to do if you were in a wheelchair 20 years ago. Now, every city has accessible transportation to get into a doctor's office or to go to the movies, to get into a hotel or a restaurant, basically to give people with disabilities the chance to do the same things as everyone else does," said NPR correspondent Joseph Shapiro on "Talk of the Nation" in 2010. 

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Still, navigating everyday tasks can be difficult and cumbersome. The medical technology industry is happy to pick up where legislation leaves off. 

Those with the upper-body strength and stamina may opt for a compactly designed and lightweight manual wheelchair over a bulkier power wheelchair or electric wheelchair, which Cure CMD notes can weigh between 250 to 350 pounds. While suitable for most needs, choosing a manual wheelchair can become inconvenient should a user require the use of an arm while also hoping to move independently. Over prolonged use on rough terrain or uphill, it can also lead to shoulder strain and fatigue.

Max Mobility, the makers of SmartDrive, hopes to solve that problem without sacrificing the best features of the compact manual wheelchair. A portable attachment, the SmartDrive acts as a battery-powered push assist that works with most wheelchairs, including folding wheelchairs. Despite its compact shape, it delivers enough power to easily roll up steep ramps, across thickly padded carpets, and is equipped with an anti-rollback feature for stopping on hills. 

The retail price of the SmartDrive is just under $6,000 from medical suppliers such as Living Spinal, but the wheelchair power assist device is also covered by most forms of insurance with a prescription, notes the Max Mobility website. 

In the video below, posted by Spinal Cord Injury Alberta, T-10 paraplegic Lorinda shares her reasons for getting the SmartDrive power assist. The barely noticeable attachment allows her to be more active and to continue to participate in the activities she loves without fear of long-term damage to her shoulders. Because the attachment is a small fifth wheel that extends below the wheelchair, she has not added any bulk and can still easily maneuver between narrow doorways. 

To be sure, Max Mobility is not the only manufacturer of wheelchair power assist devices, though most companies offer permanent wheel replacements that work as hybrids, or manually powered levers that reduce the workload. Wheelchair Diffusion and Florida Spinal Cord Injury Resource Center have a list of wheelchair power assist add-ons for review. These types of add-on devices give users the best of a motorized wheelchair and manual wheelchair in one.