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Tips on Preparing Your Wheelchair for Snow and Ice

Winter is here and while that brings things like cozy atmospheres, warm socks, hot cocoa, and snowfall in some northern territories, it can also bring hazardous conditions, especially for wheelchair users. Although staying inside and snuggling under a warm blanket is ideal, sometimes we just can’t avoid getting out in the snow. There are things that we as humans must do like attend doctor’s appointments, get groceries, go to work, get kids to and from school, and take pets out for walks.

When these unavoidable tasks come up, knowing how to navigate winter’s hazardous conditions can make all the difference in maintaining mobility independence. To prevent wheelchair related injuries, keep you and your loved ones safe, and enjoy the winter months, here are a few things you can do:

Invest in a snow shovel and/or a leaf blower – We know leaf blowers don’t sound like it makes sense but current wheelchair user, Jill White, can attest that leaf blowers do a great job at removing snow from pathways efficiently. You’ll just need to break up the snow a bit if it’s been sitting there for a while before using the leaf blower.

Winterize your wheelchair tires – This doesn’t just apply to automobiles; winterizing tires can help any wheeled vehicle navigate harsh road conditions. The key is to add as much grip and traction to your wheels as possible so you can travel through light snow or on pathways that have yet to be plowed or shoveled. Typically getting snow tires is the best course of action, however, if getting snow tires just isn’t in the budget this year, you can try this relatively inexpensive do-it-yourself solution from the United Spinal Association. Get some wire or grip ties, attach them to your wheels, then head out! The ties will help to dig out some of the snow and grip you to the ground. If you have a powered wheelchair, you may be limited by the wheel style so make your best judgement before proceeding.

Keep a backup battery – Similar to car batteries, wheelchair batteries can drain quickly in colder temperatures. Frequently checking the health of your battery before heading out to any destination is crucial. Not to mention, traveling through snow and ice with limited traction and added power to push through harsh road conditions, your battery would be taking a major hit to its power output. Always give your battery a full 8 to 10 hour charge each night, then plan your trips according to how long your battery will last, your typical cruising speed, and your anticipated travel conditions.

Install anti slip stripsIf you have a wheelchair ramp, it can work wonders for being able to get in and out of your home independently. But what you might not realize is it can also pose a hazard in icy conditions. To avoid slipping and sliding hazards, you can add anti slip strips to your wheelchair ramp, this will help to keep your wheels grounded and stop you from sliding uncontrollably. These strips can easily be installed on either the railing or floorboards of the ramp and don’t require tools.

Add clip-on flashlights – During the winter months, darkness starts to set in as early 5pm, so you don’t want to be leaving work or the grocery store in the dark. Unlike cars, not all wheelchairs come with headlights or taillights but luckily, you can easily add lights to remain visible to others around you. If you visit your local hardware store, you can buy a pack of those clip-on battery-operated lights and add them to your wheelchair. Additionally, getting reflectors and safety flags will help make you visible around large snow piles, especially if you have a wheelchair that doesn’t have the capabilities of raising the seat to eye level.

Is It Time for an Equipment Upgrade?

If you’ve tried some of the methods above or feel like these methods won’t help you in your unique situation, it might be time to look at upgrading your wheelchair. Newer wheelchairs typically are better equipped to handle more strenuous conditions, especially with the new technological advancements.

After you’ve scheduled your evaluation appointment with your doctor, make sure to jot down all the use cases of when you will need to rely on your wheelchair. This will help you and your doctor find a wheelchair that works best for your needs. If large snow piles are common in your neighborhood, you may benefit from a wheelchair with variable seat elevation.

Although insurance will only cover the cost of a new wheelchair when it’s primarily used in the home, informing your doctor about potential snow and ice hazards in your driveway could help to identify potential solutions to keep you safe from injury. Maybe investing in a wheelchair ramp that goes from your front door to the street and has those anti slip strips to prevent slipping could be a potential solution.

Most importantly, you want to make sure you have a wheelchair that’s less than 5 years old because it will be more durable and able to handle most obstacles. If properly taken care of, your batteries should be able to power you through the snowy roads and your wheels should be able to easily get you through the snow.

Don’t let winter conditions disrupt you from living your best life. Try these hacks, stay informed, and always be prepared.




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