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Using a Wheelchair Tips

By Editorial Staff

using a wheelchairContributed by Info Guru Cindi Pearce

Most people do not plan for a day when they will need to use a wheelchair for mobility.

A wheelchair can keep you mobile if you have a permanent disability, debilitating illness, or age-related issues. Other times people are in wheelchairs temporarily following an injury or surgery. Here are some valuable top ten tips for using a wheelchair:

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10. Check the terrain

check terrain

When using a wheelchair outdoors or pushing someone outdoors in a chair, check out the terrain. Pot holes and gravel can cause problems. Avoid running over them. The chair can even tip, causing the passenger to topple out.

9. Routine maintenance

Routine maintenance

Maintain the chair and keep it clean. You don’t want to be at Disneyworld and discover the chair has a flat tire or something is wrong with the spokes, axles and bearings. That would be problematic. Routinely check the chair, keeping it lubricated and well-oiled. Check to see that the bottom and back of the seat are intact. Routinely wipe down the chair with disinfectant. When the chair is not in use, fold it up.

8. Call ahead

Call ahead

If you are going to a restaurant or movie or theatre, notify them beforehand that you are in a chair. Most places are able to accommodate wheelchairs and their occupants, but you want to double check before you get there. Ask about ramps and bathroom accommodations. Once again, most places have bathroom stalls designed for wheelchairs but it doesn’t hurt to check in advance.

7. For the young people out there

exercise caution

Avoid doing those things that can potentially land you in a wheelchair for the rest of your life. Do not drink and drive. Do not ride in a car with a drinker behind the wheel. Fifty-two percent of spinal cord injuries are car accident-related. Do not dive headfirst into unknown waters. Wear a helmet when you ride a bike, a motorcycle or when riding a horse. Do not engage in stupid and dangerous asphyxiation games that can cut off oxygen supply, paralyzing the body.

6. Know how to help

Know how to help

If ever in the company of someone using a wheelchair, you can offer your assistance, but if they say ‘no’ drop it. In the office, a person in a wheelchair needs extra space for circulating and turning. Pathways and corridors should be kept clean and free of clutter so the person can get around without a problem. Co-workers need to be cognizant of this.

5. Managing doors

Managing doors

If you are having difficulty getting through a doorway in a building or to a vehicle, go through it backward. If someone is pushing the chair, pull the chair in through the door backward.

4. Wheelchair foot pedals

Wheelchair comfort

Foot pedals need to be attached and the rider’s feet must be on them. Most prefer a 70-degree angle for the footrest but others prefer a 70 degree angle because the foot is slightly elevated. Those playing sports in a wheelchair use a 90 or bigger angle to get their legs out of the way. Some require an elevated leg rest because of circulation problems or when the rider has a hard time keeping his knees bent. Tapered footrests bring the feet together at the bottom, but some people find them uncomfortable.

3. Get the right wheels

Get the right wheels

Check out the wheel size. Large wheels get over bumps easily but are heavier, require more room to turn in and interfere with foot rests and the feet.

2. Balance


Determine if the front-back balance of the chair is correct. If the rear wheels are too far to the front of the frame, the chair can tip over backwards. If the wheels are too far to the back this makes the chair difficult to push and leads to a bumpy ride. The person in the chair must be comfortable. If he isn’t this leads to pressure sores called decubitus ulcers and poor posture. A cushion is needed to provide proper support and comfort. This ensures that no part of the person’s body is experiencing so much pressure that it is cutting off blood flow.

1. Know how to stop

Know how to stop

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Know how to use the brakes! Wheelchairs are equipped with brakes. When the wheelchair is not moving, put the brakes on. People have been known to fall out of wheelchairs and hurt themselves because they tried to rise out of a chair that was not braked. They started to stand and the chair moved, causing them to lose their balance and crash to the floor. Never leave a person sitting at the top of a hill or a ramp in a wheelchair (for any reason) but certainly not in one that isn’t in brake position. There is a brake on both sides. Lock both before trying to get out of the wheelchair. This is especially important for elderly people who can sustain fatal injuries when falling.


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