A recent survey on wheelchair users rated comfort on the wheelchair as the most important issue for individuals who use them. Like drivers who are paying more for comfort, wheelchair users now are willing to fork out more money for comfort. I understand where wheelchair users are coming from, since they are in the wheelchair for most part of the day, in fact around 15 hours.
While agreeing that comfort is a big issue, wheelchair usage safety is lacking in attention. This article will focus on wheelchair safety issues, maintenances and things to look out for when using a wheelchair.
The top most priorities of wheelchair safety are the brakes. Check the brakes on a regular basis because they might get loose over time, compromising the user’s safety. For example, good brakes are needed when a user is transferring over to a wheelchair. If the brakes are not working well and the grip on the floor is not good enough, the chair might just budge and move causing the user to lose balance and fall!
If the fall causes further injury, or when the user lack physical strength to help himself up to the chair, he is stuck until someone comes along to offer assistance. Even if he has the capability to pull up from the floor to the chair, the ineffective brakes are still a problem because it is much more difficult to mount a moving wheelchair.
Secondly, stability and balance is important to use a wheelchair safely. In order to ensure stability and balance, there are some simple rules to follow:
1. Remember to use your seat-positioning strap if it is available.
2. Do not lean forward out of the wheelchair any further than the length of the armrests, when leaning forward, always ensure that the wheel casters are pointing forward to provide more stability.
3. Do not try to pick up objects from the floor by reaching down in between your knees.
4. Do not shift your weight toward the direction you are reaching as the wheelchair may tip over.
5. Do not lean over the top of the back upholstery as this may cause you to tip over.
6. Do not attempt to ride over curbs or obstacles.
7. Do not tilt the wheelchair without assistance.
8. Do not use an escalator to move between floors without assistance.
9. Do not attempt to move up or down an incline with water, ice or oil film on it.
10. Do not move across, go up, or go down ramps or slopes greater than a 9-degree angle.
Thirdly, when assisting a wheelchair user, there are some simple rules to follow:
1. Assistant must always let the wheelchair user know what he or she is doing, and to avoid sudden movements.
2. He should always use good body posture for his own safety and keep his back straight and bend knees slightly when tipping the wheelchair or moving over curbs.
3. Tipping a wheelchair without a tipping bar requires two people, one at either end.
Listed above are some of the common safety issues to look out for and is definitely not comprehensive. The wheelchair is meant to allow greater freedom and independence to its user, not to become the tool of further harm. Do practice wheelchair safety always and get the most out of life on a wheelchair!