Our top 5 tips to keep wheelchair users safe this winter

If the weatherman is to be believed, we’re in for a cold snap. That could mean ice and snow, which is bad enough for all of us, but especially frustrating (and dangerous) if you’re not as mobile as you used to be. To help wheelchair users – who are particularly at risk from wintery roads – stay safe over the coming months, we’ve compiled a list of our top 5 tips for the winter.

1: Service, spend, accessorise
This is no time to be frugal – when roads are covered in snow, you need your wheelchair to be as reliable as possible, and optimised for the conditions it’s about to face. That means giving your chair a thorough tune-up and a service, making sure wear-and-tear hasn’t created any weaknesses. It also potentially means upgrading: consider products like snow tyres, wheelblades, or anti-tippers, all of which promote stability in the snow. Think about a wheelchair poncho or similar accessory that will help to keep you warm in the winter.

2: Plan ahead
Of course, we should always plan ahead. But in winter, the stakes are much higher – so try not to leave the house when conditions are at their worst. If you absolutely have to leave the house, it’s important to have a plan: know where you’re going, and exactly how to get there. Make sure other people know where you’re going and the route you’re going to take. Stock up on things to take with you in the event of a worst-case scenario: mobile phone, plenty of warm clothing, water and something to eat, and any prescription medicine you can’t go without. Lastly, go back to tip 1: make sure your wheelchair is ready before you leave the house.

3: Adapt your wheeling technique
Here is a very simple tip: try wheeling yourself backwards in the snow. The reason for this is simple: wheeling backwards will provide you with extra traction, thereby reducing the risk of getting bogged down in the snow. It should go without saying, but do remember to keep your eyes on what’s going on in front of you while wheeling – in other words, look over your shoulder rather than drive blind!

4: Bring along a buddy
Even better than letting someone know where you’re going and how you plan to get there, consider bringing a friend along for the journey. Winter is a dangerous time for wheelchair users to be out and about unaided. You don’t have to impose on the people around you – but make an effort to schedule your trips alongside a neighbour, or do things with an old friend you haven’t seen for a while, rather than alone.

5: Act now to avoid a winter trip
At the risk of sounding like the apocalypse is coming, getting yourself stocked up now will minimise the risk of a winter trip next week. You can purchase and freeze essential items like milk and bread. And if you have plans that look like they’re going to fall at the same time as the snow, consider acting proactively and rescheduling them. It’s difficult to avoid leaving the house at all during adverse weather conditions, but the more you minimise trips outside, the safer you’ll be.

If you want to discuss staying safe over the winter, need a wheelchair service, or are looking to purchase accessories for the coming months, Shire Mobility would be happy to help. You can contact us on 01604 580 600 (Northampton) or 01869 253 976 (Bicester).

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