You wheel over to the fridge and reposition yourself and your chair to open the door the way they showed you in rehab. You reach out for the milk to find that there is only an ounce or so left. You sigh audibly. How did you forget to put milk on your list? Your daughter dropped off groceries yesterday, you don’t feel right sending her back to the store again today. You look down at your chair and then to the house keys hanging by the front door. The convenience store is only three blocks away, but you haven’t ventured further than your mailbox in the lobby. You wonder if you’re ready.
If you’re a new wheelchair user, ready to get back to daily life but aren’t sure where to start; here are 4 tips to hit the ground rolling:
1. Get fit
While upper body strength is important for many wheelchair users, and it probably wouldn’t hurt to brush off those hand weights gathering dust out in the garage; the fit that I’m referring to is the one between you and your new wheelchair. It doesn’t matter if you’ve spent thousands of dollars on a chair with all the bells and whistles, or picked one up on a tighter budget; getting around will be much more challenging if it hasn’t been properly fit to you. A seating and mobility specialist can not only recommend the best chair to meet your needs but can also ensure the best possible fit by adjusting and/or modifying your chair to accommodate your individual body type and needs.
Check out evika.io for wheelchair accessories designed to help wheelchair users get the best possible fit with their wheelchair.
2. Get prepared
The reality is, getting around with a wheelchair takes planning. Not only do you need to map out your route to ensure you have an accessible path, but you need to double check that your destination is as accessible as it advertises. After all, elevators break down, ramps get blocked and establishments sometimes equate automatic door openers with accessibility. Even after doing your due diligence it is often helpful to call ahead, clarify details and arrive early.
This bag features expandable size, reflective stripes, and water-resistance, making it well suited for wheelchairs. It easily attaches to the back of most wheelchairs and strollers.
A phone holder attachment for wheelchairs, rollators, and strollers. Easy to attach and sponge backing provides shock protection. Fits wheelchairs from other manufacturers that utilize a twist knob attachment on arm.
3. Get connected
Whether it’s online or in person, connecting with other wheelchair users can be extremely valuable to new wheelchair users. Veteran wheelchair users often have a wealth of knowledge and are keen to provide everything from moral support to insider tips and tricks for mastering wheelchair life. In addition to more broad wheelchair communities, it is often beneficial for new users to connect with a local wheelchair community for the most up-to-date and relevant information regarding the accessibility of their own communities.
4. Get real
Your success on any given outing will be tied directly to your ability to communicate your strengths and weaknesses. As a new wheelchair user, it is extremely important you understand your disability. There will be times when you need to ask for help, but just as often there will be times when you need to ask people to respect your independence (and space). The more honest and open you are with yourself and those around you, the more confident and comfortable you will be out in the community.
It won’t always be easy. There will be hiccups; you will encounter barriers, your chair will break down, you will roll through things you wish you hadn’t, but with a little preparation and a lot of determination you will re-engage with your community and pick up life where you left off.
Don’t be afraid to get a little help, or maybe some technology. There are a bunch of great accessories, some already listed above, that can make your life easier. We love the Companion Wheelchair Power Add-On as an accessory to manual chairs. It’s easy to snap on if you want to go a little further or are feeling tired. Take advantage of what modern technology has to offer!