Now, this is something that may not apply to many of you, or you may think it won’t but there’s a chance that at some point in your life, either yourself or someone you know may end up in a wheelchair. Now, there’s a million and one different stories that could be behind why that person is in a wheelchair so I figured that I’d go into a little detail if you should ever find yourself in a situation where a wheelchair bound person may need your help.

1. Know the challenges

If you are assisting i.e. pushing someone in a wheelchair, you should try to get to grips with the navigational difficulties you will frequently come across. Make a point of constantly looking out for accessibility ramps which are usually located to the sides of doors or near bathrooms, lifts or stairs. If you are approaching a difficult area, ask the wheelchair user what they consider to be the easiest navigational route, as they will generally have a pretty good idea.

2. Don’t assume help is required

If you come across a situation where it looks as though a wheelchair user may need assistance, ask first. They may be very independent and not actually need your help. Never touch or move a person’s chair without permission. You should treat the chair as an extension of the person’s body, rather than a separate piece of furniture.

3. Don’t injure yourself

Assisting someone in a wheelchair can, if you’re not careful, do your own body serious damage. You are at risk of back, neck, shoulder or wrist injury, caused usually by pushing or pulling the chair using maximum force, or helping a person in or out of a chair. To avoid injury, you should always employ good body mechanics, such as remembering to bend your knees, keeping your arms close and your feet in line with your body as you transfer someone from or to their chair. Living aids, such as as gait belt, sliding board or even a mechanical lift may be required in some cases.

4. Dealing with kerbs

When helping someone in a wheelchair, curbs should be avoided wherever possible in favour or a ramp or dropped curb. However on some occasions, it will likely be necessary to negotiate a curb. When going down a curb, you should do so backwards, looking for traffic first and waiting for a clear road. Ensuring the chair is at 90 degrees to the curb, slowly roll the rear wheels down to the road surface When the front casters are at the edge of the kerb, push down and forward on the tipping lever with your foot while gently pulling back on the handles and at the same time.

This will balance the wheelchair and its occupant on the rear wheels. Do not tip the wheelchair back more than necessary. Carefully pull the wheelchair further back into the road and – when the occupant’s feet are clear of the curb – gently lower the front to the road. Check the road is clear before turning around and crossing. When going up a kerb, use the same principles except go forwards rather than backwards.

5. What surfaces to avoid

When pushing someone in a wheelchair, you should take care to avoid steep uneven or soft surfaces. When outdoors, avoid sand, dirt paths and loose dirt, particularly when an indoor wheelchair is in use. When indoors, thick pile carpeting, rugs and lino with soft underlay should be avoided.

This post was in part written with an Australian company in mind; patienthandling.com.au are the company who are helping my grandpa out in that the equipment they supply is top notch and it makes my grandma’s life a lot easier when it comes to looking after him considering they’re out there and the majority of the rest of the Green’s are back over here in the UK!

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