SCI Community Magazine

Winter Wheelchair Tips

It’s the time of year that Ontarians know too well… winter! With all the good that this time of year brings during the holidays, the winter presents challenges to get where we’re going, having to deal with the cold, slush, snow, ice and many other troublesome winter conditions.

Those of us who use wheelchairs can have a particularly difficult time dealing with the harsh weather conditions in the cold winter days and nights. During this time of year, navigating everyday life with a wheelchair is always interesting. Here are some tips to keep things manageable.

Preparation: It’s best to check the weather every day. Once you see that there will be snow in the weather forecast, that’s when it’s time to start preparing! There is nothing worse than being caught outside in a storm. It’s a good idea to try and get your groceries, prescriptions and all your everyday needs ready beforehand.

PRO-TIP: You can also use apps like INSTACART to have groceries delivered to you, or UBEREATS for in-home dining.

Wheelchair check-up: In order to avoid mechanical issues, make sure your wheelchair has been tuned up before you go out in the snow. You should also consider getting snow tires, wheel blades or anti-tippers for your wheelchair. A little bit of air should be let out of tires as this will increase the size of the tire surface contact area, which will improve traction. The frame should be checked for any issues or damage. If you use a power chair, always make sure the battery is charged before going out.

PRO-TIP: Consider an attachment like the Freewheel which raises your castors and provides a large front wheel – this improves stability and can act as another layer of protection and safety to ensure that you can glide through the snow.

Always be ready: Be sure to dress for the weather. You should always try and stay dry and warm, wear warm water-resistant clothes and ensure no skin is exposed. It is quite important to keep the areas of your body where you have lost sensation warm and covered since you may not feel the effects of the cold or will feel it when it’s too late. If wearing multiple layers is difficult, wear as many as you can and compensate with things like a lap-blanket.

PRO-TIP: You never know when you might get stuck, it is always a good idea to pack a powerbank and phone charger.

Stay hydrated: You could quickly become dehydrated in these weather conditions with dry climates. Indoor heating systems can also keep you dehydrated which can make the cold set inside. You should always carry a water bottle with you to keep hydrated and energetic throughout the day.

Lastly, try to stay out for as little time as possible, opting to stay in and warm, unless you like winter adventures… in that case, dress up and explore!

Based on these tips, consider making a personalized checklist for the things that specifically concern you. Be aware, be safe and have fun!

Oda Al-anizi is Info and Resource Specialist at SCIO. To learn more about almost anything, connect with our InfoLine at info@sciontario.org or use our website Ask Us! Form on our website at sciontario.org.

Spinal Cord Injury Ontario | Winter 2020

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