- Both a wheelchair user and any attendants she might have must be aware of potential vehicle dangers.Yellow Dog Productions/Lifesize/Getty Images
Wheelchairs are useful vehicles that allow disabled individuals a large degree of movement. Wheelchairs are as likely to get into danger as any other small vehicle, such as a bike, if not handled and maintained correctly. Wheelchair users and their attendants should be sure to remember the importance of wheelchair safety, particularly when in busy areas such as urban centers.
- Wheelchair brakes should always be kept in top working condition. Brakes are crucial when you are making the transfer from wheelchair to bed or vice versa. In this situation the wheelchair brakes must hold steady; if your chair moves, you could suffer a fall or be unable to reach the chair. Brakes are also useful in parking situations where the surface is not entirely flat, for example on a hill or ramp. Here a brake failure can cause you to roll back down the surface, which could be a hazard.
- The chair's wheels should be well-maintained. On a regular basis, test the front and rear wheels to see if their movement is in any way obstructed. Be wary of stiff wheel locks too, which can be dangerous. If the locks are proving difficult to use, get them lubricated.
The chair's wheel alignment should also be checked; as suggested by the Mobility Advisor website, push the wheelchair along a floor, which will enable you to see if the vehicle can maintain a straight line.
- When possible, look to avoid raised areas such as curbs, and use ramps and elevators where provided. Tipping the wheelchair to get over a curb can be hazardous and result in the wheelchair toppling over. It's impossible to always follow this advice, however, so look for the assistance of an attendant in such situations.
- Wheelchairs reduce your height, so it's not always possible for others to see you. This is particularly dangerous on areas such as roads, so look to make yourself as visible as possible. Wear bright or fluorescent jackets, which are especially handy at nighttime. Attach a flag to the back of the chair to help raise your profile.
Avoid Knocking Controls
- Accidentally knocking the vehicle's controls on an electric wheelchair can be hazardous, since the vehicle might suddenly jerk or head in the wrong direction, especially dangerous in an enclosed space such as an elevator, for instance. Avoid these situations by shutting down the power when it's not needed.