Winter Safety and Wheelchairs

winter safety

It won’t be long until those multicolored leaves become topped with fresh sheets of winter snow.  Winter is coming, and with it, a host of icy hazards to be aware of, especially for wheelchair users.  But do not be deterred—travelling around and staying social in winter is encouraged!

The winter can sometimes instill a sense of anxiety in wheelchair users about their safety while venturing out into harsh conditions.  In turn, this can lead to a stay-at-home commitment that can isolate those who use wheelchairs from valuable social opportunities.  So while staying indoors to sip hot chocolate, snuggle in blankets, and watch the snowfall are all favorite wintertime activities, it is still important to get out there and be involved in the community and with social events.

Take a look at the following list of winter safety tips for wheelchair users:

  • Keep a lookout for hazardous terrain!  Identify and avoid areas with deep snow, and try to use as many plowed pathways as possible.  Traction is key.  Any icy glares in the sidewalk, pavement, or ramps should be avoided, but if they must be used, ask for assistance or at least traverse these icy patches with great caution.  But do not attempt anything that could result in losing control—let’s get through winter injury-free! 
  • Try using wire-ties (or zip-ties) on the wheels for more traction, positioning their heads on the inside of the tires for a smooth ride and to protect hands.  It’s an inexpensive way to turn ordinary tires into snow tires!  The wire-ties offer more traction while going over slippery areas and are used on bicycle tires as well.  Click here for details and specifics on how to do it yourself.  And check out these heavy-duty wheelchairs designed to conquer any terrain!  Don’t forget that winter tires are also a good idea to use on vehicles, too.
  • Layer up.  Dressing in layers can help insulate the body from the winter cold while also providing the option to remove layers once indoors.  But avoid wearing cotton clothing material (it doesn’t dry well once wet).  Consider wearing a scarf—keeping the neck warm does wonders!  Getting a good pair of gloves is also important since extremities like the hands are often the first parts of the body to be effected by cold temperatures.  Wheeling a wheelchair, whether manually or electronically, calls for hands to be able to move freely, so make sure gloves are warm, grip-worthy, and maneuverable.  And it’s always a good idea to keep a second pair handy in case the snow makes the first pair wet. 
  • Batteries!  If using a motorized wheelchair, make sure to bring along a second or third fully-charged battery, especially because the winter cold can cause battery power capacity to drastically decrease.  In addition, keep cell phone batteries fully charged just in case of an emergency.  It’s better to be well-prepared than underprepared!
  • Prepare for snow-ins.  When blizzards or lots of snowfall occurs, be prepared to live indoors for a few days, possibly without power.  This means have a ready stock of food available, ensure any medications or prescriptions are in good supply, have water, batteries, flashlights, and blankets ready, and have a plan to stay in contact with family, friends, or neighbors.

Do you have any winter safety tips that we might have missed?  Let’s hear them!