This handy guide provides you with some of the fundamental factors that you have to be aware of when using a wheelchair. Sadly it is not as simple as unfolding the chair and getting it rolling; there are some important aspects of which you and your carer should be aware.
There are a range of safety precautions that you should be aware of but this article will only cover the main concerns. Firstly make sure you do not exceed the maximum weight limit of the chair as this could lead to breakage and discomfort. Once you are in operation be careful not to have the footrests set too low as many curbs and entrances may be too high for low foot rests. They should be no lower than 6.5cms (2 ½ inches from the ground)
Lower the user into the chair, rather than allowing them to fall into the chair. Allowing them to fall could cause the chair to tip unexpectedly. Be careful when moving the wheelchair; do not lift it from the arm rests as these could become detached. Finally ensure that the wheels are properly inflated and the brakes are clean and adjusted properly. If you take these simple precautions you should be free to travel safely.
Unlike an able bodied person you will not be able to go where you please at ease. In America an act was passed in 1990 called the ‘Americans with Disabilities Act’ which aimed to maximise the accessibility of all people in physical places. Despite the legislation in place wheelchair users still face numerous difficulties in travelling to and navigating around places.
1. How are you going to get there?
Once you have decided upon your destination you need to plan a mode of transport. If you are using public transport you need to be aware of the vehicle capabilities. Some buses will pass wheelchair users waiting at bus stops due to their wheelchair space being occupied by another wheelchair user or a pram. This could lead to a long wait for a bus. If you call for a taxi, make sure you tell them you have a wheelchair, so they can send out an appropriate vehicle. With trains there are issues regarding accessing the platform and moving from the platform to the train. Tell the station staff which train you intend to board so they can radio ahead and get the ramp ready.
Travelling by car is the easiest option if you have a good sized vehicle.
2. The terrain of the destination
Pushing a wheelchair with any weight of person inside can be more difficult than you imagined. If you are visiting a park of any outside location be aware of the limitation of the wheelchair. It may be propelled by yourself or the user, either way it is limited by physical strength. Secondly the wheels are generally designed for urban transportation and are not very well designed for off-road travel. Be mindful of the facilities provided by the location – disabled toilets, lifts and ramps.
Finally you chair is an expensive piece of kit and it provides a level of freedom that would be difficult to achieve otherwise. Therefore it is important that you take good care of the chair. Avoid off-road usage, keep the brakes well adjusted, and keep the wheels oiled and the tyres adequately inflated. Take care you your chair and your chair will take care of you.
If you continue to practise the factors mentioned in this article you should be able to make the most of your situation and embrace your new position.