Learning to use a wheelchair takes time. Though the basic mechanics are simple, if you’re new to wheelchair use you’ll probably run into some issues you’d never thought of before. For example--
1. Avoid Glass and Dog Poop
You’ve probably never purposefully stepped in dog poop, but if you did-- no big deal. You can just wipe off your shoes. But with a wheelchair, if you accidentally wheel through some dog poo, you’ve got a good chance of getting it on your hands, which is even grosser.
If your wheelchair has inflatable tires, glass is now a bigger deal too. You don’t want to get stranded with a flat tire. So just keep an extra eye out for these everyday obstacles.
2. Have Extra Tires Before They’re Needed
In the event that you pop a tire or get into some other tire-damaging accident, you don’t want to be immobile while waiting for your new wheelchair tires to get in. So it’s always a good idea to keep a spare set on hand.
3. Trim Your Nails and Wear Fingerless Gloves
When using a wheelchair, it’s a good idea to keep your fingernails trimmed to minimize any risk of them tearing. Also, many wheelchair users like to wear fingerless gloves. They protect your hands from “wheel burn,” blisters, and callouses.
4. Put Your Brakes on When Sitting Still
This is an easy thing to forget, but if you don’t want to roll backwards it’s a good idea to put your brakes on when sitting still.
5. Ask About Accessibility Before Events
Unfortunately, there are still a lot of places out there that aren’t wheelchair accessible, especially private properties. So when you’re invited to a party or other social event it’s a good idea to check ahead of time to make sure the place is accessible.
6. Go Over Bumps Backwards
Even when sticking to wheelchair accessible areas, you will occasionally run into bumps. The easiest way to manage them is to go over them backward. Another option is to do a wheelie over them, but this takes some practice. When practicing wheelies, stick to carpeted floors and remember to wear a helmet.
7. Remember Your Feet Are Far in Front of Your Head
One of the easiest mistakes people make when first learning to operate a wheelchair is running into things-- walls, friends, pets, etc. So remember that your legs stick out further than your head, and keep a little extra room in front of your chair.