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wheelchair in snow

Seattle winter is nearly here, and it won’t be long before those multi-colored leaves fall and the freezing temperatures and snow will arrive. Navigating through snow or ice can be a challenge for anyone, but it can be especially so for children and individuals who are bound to wheelchairs.

If your child has cerebral palsy or other physical disability which prevents them from walking on their own, it’s important to understand how to help them get around in their wheelchair safely during the winter months. Here are some preparedness tips that parents with disabled children can follow.

Power Wheelchairs vs. Manual Wheelchairs

First and foremost, remember that winter wheelchair safety should begin before season sets in. Both manual and power wheelchairs should be serviced in order to ensure they are functioning properly.

If your child has an electric or motorized wheelchair, here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Make sure the joystick is protected from getting wet. There are special joystick covers you can buy for this purpose; you also can simply cover it with a plastic bag if you do not have a specially-made cover at the moment.
  • Bring along an extra, fully-charged battery. Battery capacity is significantly lower when it is colder outside, so on top of charging the wheelchair before heading outdoors, keep an extra battery on hand.

Alternatively, if your child has a manual wheelchair, keep the following in mind:

  • Tune it up. Manual wheelchairs require tune-ups, especially in the winter, to ensure that all the hardware on the chair and parts are secure.
  • Increase traction. It’s a good idea to have an extra set of snow tires for the winter months, which are typically wider with softer rubber; additionally, you can also turn ordinary tires into snow tires by adding wire-tires or zip-ties around the tires.

Know the Terrain

It’s crucial to understand the terrain you will be on and the potential challenges that it may pose for a wheelchair. Identify and avoid areas of snow and try to use plowed pathways and sidewalks as much as possible. It’s a good idea to also look at the forecast before heading outside to ensure that conditions will not cause a problem.

Traction is key to wheelchair safety in the winter, so avoid any icy glares on sidewalks, ramps, or pavement that you notice. You can also prepare your own home by adding grip strips to household ramps to increase traction.

If you would like to learn more about the services we offer at Angel Law, please don’t hesitate to reach out to our Portland legal team at (503) 862-8666 to get started with a free, no-obligation consultation.

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