Making the Most of Your Wheelchair Outdoors

To make the most of a wheelchair outdoors, you need to select the right wheelchair in the first place. Some mobility aids are designed to traverse rough terrain with ease and to cope with just about any weather conditions you care to throw at them. Elsewhere, others are designed primarily (or exclusively) for indoor use and are not compatible with poor weather.

But even in the case of the former of the two, it is important to take additional precautions when heading out and about. Irrespective of the weather, knowing the basics of outdoor wheelchair safety is essential.

To help you get the most out of your wheelchair outdoors and stay safe in the process, here are a few crucial tips and guidelines from health and safety experts:

1.     Always wear a seat belt

It is always a good idea to wear a seat belt when operating a wheelchair, irrespective of where you are and how far you intend to travel. Most wheelchairs now come with seat belts and safety straps incorporated as standard.  If not, there are plenty of aftermarket seat belts and safety straps that can be added to almost any wheelchair. A seat belt should be tight enough to keep you securely in place in the event of an accident, but not too tight as to become uncomfortable.

2. Focus on balance

Keeping a close eye on balance when operating a wheelchair is also essential; it is important to keep your weight evenly balanced at all times, so that each wheel is accommodating roughly the same amount of weight. This will significantly reduce the likelihood of your wheelchair leaning or tipping, which could result in an accident. If you notice that one tyre/wheel on your chair is wearing faster than the others, this could indicate imbalance when using your wheelchair.

3. Use the wheel locks

The wheel locks fitted to a wheelchair should always be engaged before standing up or sitting down. They can also be useful simply when sitting in a wheelchair and not intending to move, as a way to prevent unwanted movement. It’s a little like a car’s handbrake – you don’t always feel you need to engage it, but doing so will help keep you safe when out and about.

4. Plan your routes

Some journeys and routes taken by wheelchair are inherently more hazardous than others. The number of curbs and steps you need to negotiate, whether there are obstacles on the pavement that are in your way, busy roads that need to be crossed, potentially difficult surfaces to traverse and so on. It’s always in your best interests to give yourself extra time and to plan your route in accordance with the safest route available to you.

5. Ensure your baggage is secure

If you plan to travel with any packages or bags attached to your wheelchair, ensure they are fastened as securely as possible. Loose bags and falling personal items are a leading cause of accidents for wheelchair users. Anything that could get caught in the wheels of your wheelchair needs to be checked (and double-checked) before heading out.

6. Prioritise visibility

It is prudent to assume that some road users (and even pedestrians) may not be able to see you from a distance. Particularly when heading out and about in darker conditions (though at all times in general), it is a good idea to make your wheelchair and yourself as visible as possible. Simple reflective stickers, high-visibility clothing and LED lights attached to your wheelchair can help keep you safe, whatever time of day you head out.

Essential Wheelchair Safety Gear

Along with the above, there are further optional extras that can be purchased to make your outdoor journeys even safer. Whether you head out in your wheelchair on a daily basis or simply for the occasional errand, we highly recommend the following products and collections:

Wheelchair Clothing

Specialist wheelchair clothing is designed to keep wheelchair users warm, dry, comfortable and safe while out and about. Capable of withstanding even the most adverse weather conditions, high-quality wheelchair clothing enables you to get out and about in confidence in all four seasons. From head to toe, the right wheelchair clothing can make all kinds of journeys more comfortable and enjoyable.

Wheelchair Straps and Belts

If your wheelchair did not come with a factory-fitted seatbelt, it is essential to fit it with an aftermarket belt for your safety. But even if your wheelchair does already feature a seat belt, there are additional belts and straps that can be added to most wheelchairs for a welcome safety boost. Cheap to buy and easy to fit, aftermarket wheelchair straps and belts can play an important role in keeping you safe.

High-visibility Wheelchair Bags

A hi-vis safety bag can be just the thing for boosting the practicality of your wheelchair, while at the same time aiding your health and safety. This simple yet essential bag is compatible with most mobility scooters and wheelchairs and is fitted with reflective strips for maximum visibility in darker conditions. Generously sized at 16 ½” x 19 ½”, it’s large enough to accommodate a broad range of personal items, but compact enough not to become obtrusive.