Snow. Sleet. Ice. And if you happen to be in Minnesota this week, subarctic temperatures. These things are closely associated with winter weather, but they are also cause for concern for wheelchair users. That is because these weather conditions can interfere with a wheelchair and make a wheelchair user’s mobility all that much more difficult during the winter months. And, while we may want to take a page from a grizzly bear’s playbook and hibernate for a few months each year, we all know that is not something everyone can realistically do. Instead, wheelchair users can take some precautions to help them stay as safe as possible while out and about these long, cold winter months. Here are five ways that wheelchair users can stay safe this winter (and winters to come).
Get a Tune Up
One of the first things wheelchair users can do is to have a technician thoroughly check over their wheelchair prior to the year’s first snow, or as soon as possible after the snow hits the ground. The technician should check the caster or front wheels of the wheelchair. They can test the wheels to ensure they are rolling smoothly and will not get stuck or slide in the snow.
They should also check the wires for any loose connections or possible breaking points. Essentially, they will check for anything that could be loose or have the potential to break. They will be able to fix anything that could possibly go wrong with the wheelchair and leave the user stranded, prior to it actually causing a problem.
It is important that wheelchair users remember to do this on a yearly basis, to ensure their wheelchair is in the best possible condition to get them where they need to go.
Consider Snow Tires
A winter tune up can even include installing snow tires on a wheelchair. Yes, you read that right. Winter tires are not just for winter wheelchair vans for sale, they can be installed on every type of wheelchair, as well. Snow tires are pneumatic tires made from softer rubber. These help a wheelchair grip the ground, especially when snow is present, and can help keep the wheelchair from sliding due to the elements. Additionally, snow tires can help a wheelchair user to avoid having snow and ice buildup in their wheels and result in getting stuck in the snow.
Carry a Backup
Backup batteries are incredibly important, especially for power wheelchair users. Rather than getting stuck while on the go, the backup batteries will allow wheelchair users to simply change out their battery and get back to wherever they are needing to go. One other thing to note, batteries will lose up to 60 percent of their power when the temperature reaches zero degrees (or below). It is important to keep backup batteries wrapped up and warm, especially while out and about during the winter months.
Dress for Success
This one seems easy, right? Just dress warm outside during the colder months of the year. But, when it comes to dressing warm for wheelchair users, there is a lot to more to consider. Wheelchair users need to not only dress in layers, but they need to keep their hands warm, without hindering their ability to control their wheelchair. This often means using gloves with individual fingers rather than mittens.
Additionally, wheelchair users should dress in clothing that will not stay wet when it gets wet, like cotton. This is important because wet clothes can cause hypothermia more quickly should an individual become trapped outdoors in the cold. So, rather than cotton clothing, wheelchair users should wear sweat-wicking clothing when they are travelling outdoors in the winter months. Whenever wheelchair users are not able to wear this type of clothing and need to opt for cotton clothing instead, it is important to bring an extra set of clothing should their clothes become wet and they need to change. And, this does not just go for clothing, it goes for outerwear like hats, gloves, scarves and jackets, as well.
Create an Emergency Plan
Last but not least, wheelchair users and their caregivers should create an emergency plan should something bad happen during the winter months. This means planning for a power outage or planning for being snowed in for multiple days. Plans should include keeping a few days of bottled water and easy-to-prep or non-perishable food items at home. It should also include warm items like sleeping bags, blankets and even firewood and matches if there is a fireplace to help heat the home.
It should also include keeping two fully charged batteries for a power wheelchair in case power is out and the wheelchair cannot be charged. Additionally, power wheelchair users should look into having a backup generator or battery operated charging block. Should the power be out for an extended period of time, this will help to ensure the wheelchair user can remain mobile within their home.
Ready. Set. Enjoy.
While this is by no means an all-encompassing list of ways wheelchair users can stay safe this winter, it is a great place to begin. It is never too early or too late to begin preparations that can help a wheelchair user stay safe during the cold weather months. So, now that you are equipped with winter weather safety tips, you can enjoy outdoor activities (whenever the weather permits, of course) and ensure you can stay safe when traveling to and from those activities. Just remember that you and your loved ones do not need to do it alone. At Rollx Vans, our team is here to be a resource for our customers and their families. And, when you have a Rollx Van, we know that you will be ready and fully capable to hit the open winter road. Contact our team today with any questions you may have about winter safety or to get started with your first or next wheelchair van purchase.