Wellness & Education

10 Tips for Winter Wheelchair Safety

Navigating through snow and ice can be challenging for everyone, but particularly for those who are wheelchair or scooter-bound.  Here are 10 tips to make winter travel a bit easier.

  • Before winter sets in, get your wheelchair serviced to make sure that everything is in top working order. This is important for both manual and electric chairs and scooters.
  • If you have an electric scooter with a joystick, protect the joystick from wet weather. You can get a special joystick cover for this. In a pinch, a plastic bag offers partial protection.
  • If using an electric wheelchair or scooter, remember that battery capacity can be significantly lower in cold weather. It’s wise to bring along an extra, fully charged, battery for back-up when the thermometer drops.
  • Traction can be iffy in ice and snow. Try to avoid slippery conditions whenever possible. In the meantime, add grip strips to household ramps for increased traction.
  • If possible, switch to snow tires. If you don’t have access to snow tires, here is a link to DIY snow tires using zip ties: https://www.unitedspinal.org/wheelchair-snow-tires/
  • Avoid traveling alone. Take a buddy along instead. If you must go somewhere alone, be sure to let someone know where you’re going and when you expect to return.
  • Keep a fully charged cell phone with you at all times.
  • Dress warmly. No one plans to get stuck, but if you do, some extra layers may make all the difference.
  • Stay visible. Wheelchairs and scooters have a low profile and can be difficult to see during the dusky days of winter. Use lights and reflective strips to stand out. Headlights, tail lights and spoke lights meant for bicycles can all be used to make a wheelchair more visible. For maximum effectiveness, look for lights with the highest number of lumens.
  • If you want to raise the profile of your mobility device, attach a reflective safety flag similar to those used on recumbent bicycles.