If you have limited mobility, getting an electric wheelchair can make your life so much easier. Finally, you can move from room to room with ease and feel like you're getting more done in a day than you have in years. But while electric wheelchairs are a true blessing, they are a powerful device, and they can lead to injuries if you are not careful. As you adapt to using your electric wheelchair both at home and when out and about, make sure you follow these safety tips to prevent injuries.
Avoid bending too far back or forward.
When you're trying to reach for something, whether it be an item on your table or a book on a shelf, there may be times when you are tempted to bend forward or lean substantially backwards. This can be dangerous as it shifts your center of gravity in front of or behind the chair's center of gravity, which may eventually cause you to flip over. To be safe, when you find yourself thinking about reaching forward or back, just move your chair a little closer in that direction. If there are items you cannot get your chair close enough to reach without a lot of bending, you may want to have someone move that item to a new spot where you can more easily reach it without putting your chair at risk of tipping.
Put the brake on.
Whenever you stop your wheelchair and know you won't be moving for a minute or two, put the brake on. This will keep your chair from rolling away if someone were to brush up against it or bump into you. Always lock the brake before you get out of the chair, too. This way, when you sit back down in the chair, the brake will still be locked -- so you don't have to worry about the chair sliding out from underneath your bottom as you do to sit down.
Use extreme caution outside.
Some electric wheelchairs are intended for indoor use only. If you have one of these models, it's best to avoid using it outdoors since the wheels and motor may not be intended to safely navigate slippery terrain, rocks, and other obstructions.
Even if your chair is approved for outdoor use, make sure you're following these safety precautions when you ride it outside:
- Place a light or reflector on the back of the chair so that others can easily see your chair and avoid hitting you.
- Avoid areas that look slippery, and don't go out on icy days; even the best tires can slip and slide on ice.
- Have the casters replaced on your chair often if you use it outside because these can become easily damaged by gravel and other rough terrain.
- Don't ride outside in the rain; exposure to the dampness can cause components to rust, which may cause them to fail and break.
Learn how all settings work.
Your wheelchair should come with a manual that shows you what each button and lever does. Make sure you know how all of these functions operate so you don't accidentally find yourself barreling down the driveway at top speed, unable to stop. If you are struggling to figure out how a function works, ask a friend or relative to help you figure it out. Someone who is more mobile may be able to climb into the chair and experiment with different settings to figure out how they work better than you can.
To learn more about the safest way to operate your wheelchair, consult your owner's manual or the manufacturer of the chair you have.