Wheelchair Safety

Wheelchair Safety

Prior to operating a wheelchair, learn wheelchair safety. Wheelchairs are one of the main devices that physically challenged people use to increase their independence in everyday life. Life in a wheelchair provides a different perspective and comes with its own set of safety issues.

If you or someone you know is in a wheelchair, here are a few tips on wheelchair safety. Some seem like common sense, but they all are worth mentioning:

  1. Check the Brakes – Though they are vital to safety and utilized in so many day-to-day activities (like when transferring to and from the wheelchair), brakes/wheel locks are often taken for granted. Wheelchair brakes do become loose and worn. Check them on a regular basis, at least once a week.
  2. Use the Seat Belt – You just never know when you are going to hit a bump, crack, or pothole in a sidewalk or be faced with a steep hill to go down. It’s good safety sense to always wear your lap belt when using your chair.
  3. Use Rear Anti-tippers – Most new chairs come equipped with built-in anti-tippers, but if you have an older chair, you may not have them, or they may have been removed. Steep inclines and obstacles can make you tip unexpectedly, so make sure you use them.
  4. Be Aware of Your Center-of-Gravity– Of course, you’re not expected to sit still while you’re in your chair. The need will arise when you will be required to bend, lean, or reach while in your chair. The key will be maintaining your stability and balance. The best way to get a feeling for how to do these things, and learn how your chair will react when you do, is to practice (not when you are alone, of course). Remember to utilize your wheel locks and remain fully seated, in the middle of your chair – don’t sit on the edge of the seat or too far over to one side, and never try to reach between your legs to get to something on the floor. These actions will shift your center of gravity, causing you to tip over. Learn your limits.
  5. Follow the Rules of the Road – Wheelchairs should remain with pedestrian traffic, on the sidewalk. Never ride in the road. If you will be using your chair at night, and especially if you will be crossing streets, be sure you have adequate reflectors and lights so that you are visible to cars. Use extreme caution when maneuvering through parking lots, as motorists who are backing out of spaces will have a difficult time seeing you in your chair as you pass behind them.
  6. Read the Owner’s Manual – The manual describes how to use your chair for optimal use. It also describes safety precautions to take, and explains how to use any safety features that are built into the chair. This is especially important for power operated wheelchair users.

Wheelchair safety is important, but something most of us take for granted. With experience comes a greater knowledge of your personal limitations and abilities, paramount to safe wheelchair operation. But, not all wheelchairs behave alike. If you get a new wheelchair, learn how to operate it properly by reading the manual, and be sure you understand and utilize the safety features it is equipped with.

Wheelchair Safety Articles

Back to Home Page from Wheelchair Safety