Most people are given a wheelchair and that is it.
But you wouldn’t just give someone a bike and not show them how to ride it.
So why do the same way with a wheelchair?
The answer is that the person giving it to you has probably never piloted a wheelchair themselves, and even if they have, they probably don’t have time to show you a few things.
But without the knowledge and skills, a wheelchair is no better than a cage. So we thought that we’d share a few tips and tricks that we’ve picked up over the years.
The L Turn
The L Turn is a 90 degree turn in a tight space. It comes in particularly handy at home, for doing things in the kitchen for example. It easy to practice as well.
Place 4 markers on a flat floor in the shape of box.
Go into the centre of the box and turn left or right, so you go out forwards.
If you are in a manual or power chair, practicing Ls in a tight box like the one illustrated above will help you
- Go through doors.
- Turn in tight spaces.
What the L also does is gets the user to start to think about
Starting and Stopping
Sounds too obvious, doesn’t it?
The thing is though, starting and stopping is hard, and that is whether you are in an manual wheelchair or an electric one.
Starting can be hard because of where you start from such as in the middle of a hill. Stopping can be the same, how do you stop on a slope for example?
If you are in a power wheelchair for example, controlling the speed dial is the crucial aspect. It can be tempting to want to go as fast as possible because of impulse to ‘keep up’. However especially in crowds, you need to start and stop on the head of a pin.
Less is definitely more.
Manual Pushing Strokes
If you are using a manual wheelchair, altering your pushing stroke can be very important. This is because depending on whether your going up or down hill, across uneven terrain or through water.
Going Up and Down Hill
For going up hill in a manual chair, you want to try and lean forwards (if you can), shorten your pushing stroke and increase your frequency.
When going down hill, you want to run your fingers down the smooth side of the push rim and gently control your speed.
Making Your Way Across Uneven Terrain
Uneven terrain such as cobbles or fields are very tricky, even with some pro tips, many people will never fully master it but you can still become very good.
- On most uneven surfaces in a manual wheelchair, it is best to try and lift your front wheels as much as possible. The front wheels are the part of the chair mostly likely to get caught. You don’t need to keep the front wheels in the air (if you don’t have the balance), just keep tipping them and then inching forwards.
- Whether in a manual or electric chair, if you’re riding over uneven ground, it is always good to plan your route. By looking ahead, you can avoid many of the hardest hurdles and make your ride a little easier.
- It is important to also look down as much as possible, because it is very easy to get caught out by that little loose paving tile or crack. Those are among the most dangerous environmental factors. The only way to combat this is to keep an eye to the ground.