3 Things The First-Time Wheelchair User Needs To Know About Getting Around In Public
If you've recently had to learn how to use a wheelchair--whether it be as a temporary or permanent solution--the fact remains that learning how to get around in public can be a real challenge. Unlike your home, which you can adapt to make more wheelchair accessible, public spaces aren't always easy to maneuver around. By being aware of a few important tips for beginner wheelchair users, however, you can avoid some of the obstacles and frustrations that come along with trying to maneuver your wheelchair in public.
Look for Curb Cuts
One of the most common challenges you may face (especially while trying to navigate sidewalks in busy cities) is crossing the street. Sometimes, curbs don't have cut-outs in them and you may find yourself stuck in the street with no way to get up and over the curb. This is why it's so important to locate curb cut-outs before crossing any streets. Eventually, learning to spot these ahead of time will get easier. In the long-run, you may even learn how to navigate over curbs in your wheelchair; for now, however, keeping a watchful eye on street crossings will save you a lot of stress.
Watch for Glass
If your wheelchair has inflatable tires (most do), then you'll need to be careful and watch for glass while in public. This is especially true when in parking lots and while crossing streets. Even a small piece of glass lodged in one of your tires could leave you stranded. On that note, it's also in your best interest to have an electric pump and a patch kit on you at all times while out in public--just to be safe.
Keep Repair Tools On-Hand
In addition to tire patches and an air pump, it's also a good idea to keep some basic repair tools on you at all times. You can keep them in a backpack that you keep in your wheelchair while you travel so that you're never without them in a time of need. Some important tools to have on-hand include a screw driver, extra screws, bolts, and tools to adjust the brakes on your chair if they come out of alignment.
If you need to buy wheelchairs, it's important that you learn to adapt as well. There's definitely a learning curve when it comes to maneuvering a wheelchair in public places. However, by keeping these tips and precautions in mind, you'll have an easier time adjusting to using your wheelchair just about anywhere you go.