DISABLED SAFETY GUIDANCE:
People use wheelchairs for a variety of reasons. This popular and safe mobility device is meant to provide the user with independence, comfort and the capability to enjoy life to the fullest. You may think using a wheelchair is easy, and for the most part it is. However, there are a variety of safety measures you will want to consider and follow to assure you are getting the best use out of your wheelchair. We have put together this useful wheelchair safety guide to help you avoid any accidents, preventing falls and other safety tips.
How to use a wheelchair without getting harmed
Center of Gravity
When first using a wheelchair you will want to become familiar with your center of gravity. Finding your proper position is essential to your safety when using your wheelchair. In the beginning you will want to use the casters to help maintain your balance and stability. Practice conducting a variety of activities such as bending, reaching and transferring in and out of your wheelchair. All of these movements will cause a change in weight distribution of the wheelchair. It is best to practice and feel confident with all of your movements while someone is close by in case you need assistance while adjusting to the wheelchair.
At times you may need to reach for something by bending backward. You will want to position your wheelchair as close to the desired object as possible. Use the casters so they extend away from the drive wheels to create a long wheelbase. Reach back as far as your arm will extend without changing the position you are sitting in.
First, you will always want to keep in mind that you will never want to attempt to reach for an object if you have to position yourself forward on the seat of your wheelchair. This can be dangerous. Instead, you will want to position the casters and extend them away from the drive wheels, then engage the wheel locks before reaching forward towards the object.
Tipping and falling is the most common accidents wheelchair users encounter. Tipping can be caused by a variety of reasons which include making your wheelchair go to fast, unlocked brakes, slippery surfaces, the sitting stability of the user and hitting a large bump with one wheel causing the wheelchair to become unbalanced. To avoid tipping and falling, the tipping lever should be secure when needed and you should beware of your speed around tight corners and on tough terrain.
- Lock the brakes before getting out or into the wheelchair.
- The power should be turned off of electric wheelchairs before transferring.
- Adjust or lift foot rests and arm rests if needed before transferring.
- Avoid placing a large heavy bag or items on the back of the wheelchair. This can cause the wheelchair to tip backwards during transferring.
- Attach flashy items such as flashing taillights and flags to your wheelchair when you go out at night. This will allow people to easily see you in dark parking lots and streets.
- Avoid forcing your chair down or up staircases, slopes and inclines.
- Replace the casters regularly. If your are experiencing a side to side motion while going at high speeds this is a sign it needs replacing.
- Adjust and program your power wheelchair settings so that you are comfortable with the speed.
- Avoid the rain as much as possible. Wheelchairs can lose traction and the controls of an electric wheelchair can get wet.
- Avoid leaning forward and tipping yourself out of the wheelchair
- Move footrests out of the way to avoid tripping on them during transfer
- Lock the brakes before getting out of the wheelchair
- Don’t over reach for an object
- Avoid sliding or positioning yourself too far forward on the seat
There are a variety of wheelchairs that are excellent for outdoor use. However, you will always want to be careful and avoid certain surfaces and weather conditions. Sandy surfaces should be avoided as much as possible. Even a paved sidewalk with a small amount of sand scattered on it can cause your wheelchair to become unbalanced, spin around and tip over. This happens very quickly and mostly with power wheelchairs. Sometimes you are able to gain control and prevent the fall, but this is risky. To prevent this from happening try to avoid the sandy surface by going around the surface. Wet surfaces and puddles should also be avoided. Splashing through a puddle with your electric wheelchair can cause the entire wheelchair to become wet, slide, spin, tip and fall over. Avoiding the wet surface and going around the area is recommended for safety reasons. If it is raining outside and you have no choice, proceed with caution and at a slow pace. When using outdoor ramps in any weather condition always inspect the condition of the ramp for uneven surfaces, slippery areas, holes and other obstacles in your pathway to the ramp. If you are approaching a ramp that you are not sure of, you can ask someone to take a closer look for you before you attempt to use the ramp.
- Have your wheelchair inspected and serviced before your trip
- Take pictures of your wheelchair and accessories with a camera that has a date and time feature to show the condition of your wheelchair before boarding the plane
- Remove leg rests and accessories from your wheelchair before handing it over to the airlines
- Alert the staff that you are a wheelchair user when making reservations
- Gather all wheelchair travel information, rules and regulations you will need to adhere to during your trip
- Carry the contact information of a wheelchair repair shop located close to your destination for emergency purposes
- Keep in mind wheelchair users are the first to board the plane and the last to depart the plane, adjust your travel schedule to have at least 2 hours between connecting flights
- Conduct research and book flights with airlines that are bound by the Air Carrier Access Act
- Prepare to have your wheelchair completely inspected at the security gate. This includes non-removable pouches and even your seat cushion.
Maintenance and Servicing
Keeping your wheelchair in top condition is essential to its dependability and longevity. Depending on how much you use your wheelchair you will want to at least provide maintenance once a year. If you use your wheelchair frequently you will want to make sure the battery is always charged and visit a repair shop at the first sign of any problem with your wheelchair. The repair shop technician will discuss a service schedule with you based on the amount of use and your lifestyle.
Common parts that are replaced or serviced on a regular basis include batteries, joysticks, arm rest joints, safety seat belts, arm rests, leg guards, central processing unit controller and cable, seat cushions, back support cushions, front wheel assembly and rear wheel and motor assembly.
This convenient wheelchair safety guide will help you use a chair properly, travel safely and hassle-free, prevent falls and enjoy traveling safely. When beginning to use a wheelchair you will want to have someone nearby until you are comfortable with leaning forward and backwards as well as transferring without tipping over. Ask a family member, friend or caregiver to assist when necessary until you are able to maintain your stability easily. Always use safety measures when using your wheelchair.