The onset of winter can bring unpleasant challenges for anyone. This is particularly true for those that use a wheelchair. Anything that depends on consistent contact with the ground is going to suffer as snow and ice start to fall and form. The wheels of a wheelchair are no different. In addition, because of the inherent dangers of the cold, special precautions need to be taken to prevent small hiccups from ballooning into major problems. Anything that limits a person’s mobility while exposed to the cold elements has a more severe impact during the harsh winter months. Therefore, precautions need to be taken. Here are some things that can be done to make sure the wheelchair experience is as smooth as possible—even when the temperatures drop.
Consider a Buddy System
Even though the buddy system may seem outdated for a grown, independent individual, there are significant advantages to implementing it, particularly during winter. Mobility is always going to be an issue, and when mobility is limited, having a buddy around can be the difference between being momentarily inconvenienced and stuck out in the cold. A buddy doesn’t have to be arranged all the time, however. Some of the more crucial tasks can be designated for the buddy system. For example, you can arrange for a buddy to accompany you when you need to make it to a doctor’s appointment on time. The same could be said for when you need to make it to the dentist or pay a visit to a child’s school. Making sure the most important tasks go smoothly by using the buddy system will take some of the pressure off, particularly when a breakdown in mobility can be so dangerous due to the cold.
Less crucial but similarly important tasks may be easier in the winter if a buddy system is implemented. For example, you can have a buddy come along when you need to go and get groceries. Once you’re inside the store, it is typically smooth sailing. However, the trip through the parking lot can be fraught with danger, especially because adequate mobility depends on moving over potentially slippery surfaces in the wheelchair. If you have other errands that you typically have to run on a weekly or bi-weekly basis, you can arrange to have a buddy join you ahead of time, making it part of the regular routine. This could even be as simple as having a buddy make sure you’re able to get to and from a mobility-assisting vehicle on your way to do what you need to. The time commitment doesn’t have to be extravagant, and the benefits are well worth it.
Prepare Your Wheelchair
The most important steps you can take to ready your wheelchair for the winter is to double-check all mobility equipment. You will need to check your wheelchair brakes, wheelchair casters, and wheelchair tires. In addition, there are side guards for wheelchairs that you may want to add as extra insurance against an unexpected bump. Some find off-road tires for wheelchairs helpful during the winter months. Regardless of any additions you make to your wheelchair, your priority should be to make sure all components on which mobility hinges are in proper working order. Check that all parts are lubricated and functioning properly. This should be done at least weekly, which will give you added confidence as you venture out into the cold.
No amount of planning can replace the need to be careful as you maneuver, especially during the winter. It’s easy to get into a regular rhythm where you feel you know what’s coming up next and how to deal with it. However, everything changes when things get slippery. Moving objects are less predictable, and your own movements aren’t as controllable. Be particularly careful when navigating slopes. The walkway is another point of concern. Make sure it is properly cleaned and you put something down like salt or cat litter to increase traction. Be careful to clean off any salt left on your wheelchair after use, however, because this can cause certain parts to corrode prematurely.
With these tips in mind, there’s no reason to fear winter. Grab a buddy or two, prep your wheelchair, and be careful, and you will move smoothly through winter and into spring.