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Safety First!: Tips For Staying Safe In Your Manual Wheelchair

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Whether you have been using your wheelchair for so long that you’re a pro, or you’re just getting started learning how to maneuver, you should keep in mind the safety recommendations for your wheelchair.

No matter how comfortable you are in your chair, you should always make safety your priority. Staying safe and healthy ensures you will be able to continue to enjoy your wheelchair mobility. Here are some tips on how to do that.


You’ve heard of inspecting the tyres on your car? You should inspect the tyres on your wheelchair, too. Just like any vehicle, a chair can also get a flat, leaving you stranded. Make sure the tyres are filled with the proper amount of air, and that the tread is not too worn. When the tread wears down, it makes your tyres slick. Worn tires can cause your brakes to slip.

Another consideration when checking your tyres is to make sure they are properly fastened on. If you remove your tyres for storage, be sure you have put them all the way back on before using the chair again. Tyres can appear to be secure, when they have really not been pushed all the way in.

Caster Wheels 

Before transferring, check to make sure your caster wheels are facing straight forward. If they are not, adjust them until they are. Caster wheels that are turned sideways can make your chair slip, causing you to fall, and possibly get injured.

Hand Rims 

Since your hand rims stick out a bit from your wheels, they are often the first thing to bang into doorways and furniture. These bumps can cause rough and jagged areas on the metal. Periodically inspect your hand rims to make sure they are still smooth. Any pieces that are sticking out have the potential to cut your skin or cause abrasions.

Seat Cushion 

Your seat cushion is important for many reasons. It affects your posture and support. It also protects you from developing pressure ulcers. Inspect your cushion for anything that could cause it not to function optimally. Tears, holes, or compressed areas can all compromise the cushion’s design.

Wheel Locks 

Wheel locks are just for locking your wheels. They should never be used as brakes, to slow down a chair in motion. When you transfer, make sure both wheel locks are in use. Also make sure they are completely locked, even if that takes a little extra muscle. If you don’t fully lock them, your chair can still slide.

Armrests and Footrests – When you are outside, the sun can turn the surface of your chair very hot. Be careful before laying your skin against armrests and footrests that may have hot metal. Burns can happen very quickly.

Seat Belts

If you use a seat belt, the same sun warning goes for the metal of the clip. It can become very hot and burn you. Seat belts should also be inspected for any frayed or worn areas that may make it less secure.

The Frame

If there are any bolts and screws that keep your frame together, make sure they are not loose. If the back of your frame has screws, they are especially likely to come loose from either you leaning back against your backrest, or other people pushing the back of your chair. Missing or loose screws can make the back unstable and wobbly. At worst, this is unsafe, at best, it is bad for your posture.

It may seem tedious to have to constantly check your wheelchair to make sure it is in good operating condition, but it is worth it to keep yourself safe and mobile. Just as you would get your car inspected, you want to inspect your wheelchair as well. A little bit of preventative care can save you time and money in the long run.


Author:  Annie Beth Donahue is a professional writer with a health and disability focus. 


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