Medical Equipment Blog

Wheelchair Safety

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

I recently purchased a wheelchair for my father. Can you provide some tips about wheelchair safety? I can relay this to him and it will be useful to me and other family members. I appreciate your help. A general rule to follow regarding wheelchair safety is: prevent accidents before they happen. Keep this in mind as you and your father become familiar with the wheelchair’s accessibility, maneuverability, and maintenance. This is a universal guideline for wheelchair safety:
  1. Read the Operator’s Manual. Observe all precautions.
  2. Regular maintenance is very important. Keep the wheelchair in good repair and you’ll prevent many accidents and malfunctions.
  3. Always lock the brakes before getting in and out of the wheelchair.
  4. Lift the footplates up before getting in or out of the chair.
  5. If you have a wheelchair with removable arms or leg rests, make sure they’re secure by lifting the arms and gently trying to swing the leg rests away from the chair. Do this before each use.
  6. Avoid putting heavy loads on the back of the wheelchair. It may tip backwards.
  7. When sitting in the wheelchair, be careful when pulling doors open. Sudden, aggressive pulls may tip the wheelchair backwards.
  8. Keep loose objects or lap covers away from wheel spokes.
  9. Avoid going up or down steep inclines. You may lose control or tip over.
  10. Beware of caster flutter. This is the side-to-side motion of the caster which usually happens at high speeds. If the casters flutter, repair them immediately.
  11. If you have a power wheelchair, be sure the power is off when getting in or out of the chair.
  12. Don’t allow children to play on or with the wheelchair and don’t let them play with the controls.
  13. Program your power wheelchair so that it won’t go faster than the operator can handle, especially in reverse.
  14. If riding in the streets, use a flag.
  15. If riding at night, use headlights and flashing taillights.
  16. Avoid riding in the rain. This is not safe in general, but if the controls get wet on your power wheelchair, it may malfunction. As well, wheels lose traction on wet ground, especially urethane tires.

Finally, instead of just being more careful, think of ways to prevent problems before making a mistake. While indoors, don't use high-speeds as a mistake could send you into a wall at full speed. Plan ahead of time for emergencies, such as brake failures, tipping backwards, or a power wheelchair moving by itself. Hope that helps.


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