Wheelchairs and scooters are great devices for staying mobile and leading an independent life. But across the U.S. there are thousands of injuries each year related to wheelchairs or scooters. Most of these injuries are caused by tips and falls, but other factors also contribute to these injuries, including uneven terrain or lack of appropriate home modifications, lack of proper equipment such as seatbelts/restraints and anti-tip devices, and inadequate maintenance of wheelchairs/scooters.
Here are a few safety tips to help you avoid becoming part of the injury statistics:
Be smart! When operating your chair or scooter, always assume that no one sees you, whether on a sidewalk, street, or in a building
If you are unsure that you can navigate the terrain in front of you, look for another way.
Uneven terrain, steep inclines and declines, can pose problems. If you are with someone who is walking, have them scout out unfamiliar places before you
Make sure that you are visible – especially in low light situations.
Wear high visibility clothing, make sure your chair has reflective tape, and attach a bright, tall flag
to your wheelchair or scooter
Make sure your chair or scooter has the proper safety equipment – including seat belts
and anti-tip devices
When you are stopped, always use brakes or wheel locks to prevent movement
Maintain your chair on a regular basis – if you have air-filled tires, make sure they are properly filled with air. Inspect your wheel locks, tires and caster bearings for wear. Check your brakes on a regular basis.
If you do not have a maintenance-free battery, check the fluid levels in each of the cells. If something needs replacing – replace it
Make sure your home is able to support a chair or scooter.
Home modifications can be extensive or may just involve moving the furniture around to provide easier access. You should have ramps
even on small doorway thresholds
If you travel, always state you are a disabled traveler when booking your travel plans. It is better to know up front if hotels, airlines, taxis, etc. are able to accommodate you
Never have someone tilt you back in your chair and push you down the steps one step at a time – get a ramp!
Have a plan in the event of an accident.
Are you with someone who can help? Do you have a cell phone handy? Do you have emergency phone numbers already programmed into your cell phone?
Partner up with a loved one, friend, or caregiver to help you practice these safety tips, and be safe out there