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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
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