How to Use Wheelchairs

Today, we’re diving into a topic close to many hearts: wheelchairs. Whether you’re a new user, a caregiver, or just curious, understanding the basics of wheelchair use is essential.

So, let’s roll into the world of wheelchairs with confidence and comfort!

Why Wheelchairs?

Wheelchairs are more than just mobility devices; they symbolize independence. They offer freedom to those with mobility challenges, allowing them to navigate the world on their own terms.

Types of Wheelchairs:

Manual Wheelchairs

Operated by the user or a helper, these require physical strength and stamina.

Electric Wheelchairs

Powered by batteries and controlled by a joystick, they’re perfect for those with limited upper body strength.

Getting the Right Fit

Imagine wearing shoes two sizes too small. Uncomfortable, right? The same goes for wheelchairs. Here’s what to consider:

  • Seat Width and Depth: Ensure about an inch of space on either side of your hips and thighs. Your depth should allow you to sit back comfortably without the edge pressing against the back of your knees.
  • Backrest and Armrests: These should provide ample support without causing strain.
  • Footrests: Your feet should rest flat, with your knees at a 90-degree angle.

Mastering the Basics of Movement

For Manual Wheelchairs:

  1. Pushing: Place your hands on the push rims, not the tires. Push forward using a smooth motion.
  2. Turning: Push the wheel on the opposite side of the direction you want to turn.
  3. Braking: Use the brake handles, usually located by the wheels, to stop or park.

For Electric Wheelchairs:

  1. Starting and Stopping: Gently push the joystick in the direction you want to go. Release it to stop.
  2. Turning: Push the joystick left or right. Remember, practice makes perfect!

Getting into and out of a wheelchair

Once you have chosen a wheelchair, learning how to get into and out of it safely is important. Here are some tips:

To get into a wheelchair:

  1. Stand in front of the wheelchair with your feet shoulder-width apart.
  2. Swing one leg over into the wheelchair and sit down.
  3. Swing your other leg over into the wheelchair.
  4. Adjust the footrests and armrests so that they are comfortable.

To get out of a wheelchair:

  1. Lock the wheels of the wheelchair.
  2. Swing one leg over out of the wheelchair.
  3. Stand up and swing your other leg over out of the wheelchair.

Propelling a wheelchair

  1. To propel yourself forward in a wheelchair, grip the push rims with your hands and push them backward. 
  2. To propel yourself backward, grip the push rims with your hands and pull them forward. 
  3. To turn corners, simply push more on the push rim on the side you want to turn towards. For example, to turn to the right, push more on the right push rim.

Transferring from a wheelchair

  1. If you need to transfer from a wheelchair to a bed, chair, or other surface, you can do this in a few different ways.
  2. One way is to use a sliding board. To use a sliding board, place the board between the wheelchair and the surface you want to transfer to. Then, slide from the wheelchair to the surface.
  3. Another way to transfer is to use a lift. To use a lift, transfer from the wheelchair to the lift platform. The lift will then raise you to the level of the surface you want to transfer to.

If you are unsure how to transfer safely, ask your doctor or a physical therapist for assistance.

Navigating Common Challenges

Curbs and Steps:

  1. For going up, tilt the wheelchair backward slightly (with assistance if needed) and move forward.
  2. For going down, approach backward and descend slowly.

Rough Terrains:

  1. Move at a steady pace and avoid sharp turns.
  2. For electric wheelchairs, ensure they’re designed for such terrains.

Maintenance and Care

Your wheelchair is your trusty steed, and it deserves TLC!

  • Cleaning: Wipe down the frame and seat regularly. For electric wheelchairs, ensure no water gets into electrical components.
  • Tire Check: Ensure they’re inflated and check for wear and tear.
  • Battery Care (for electric wheelchairs): Charge regularly and avoid draining completely.

Embracing the Wheelchair Lifestyle


From bags to cup holders, there are numerous accessories to make your ride smoother. Consider adding personalized touches like colorful wheel spokes or themed seat cushions to truly make the wheelchair your own.

Stay Active:

  • Wheelchair Sports: Whether it’s basketball, tennis, or even dancing, there’s a sport out there for every wheelchair user.
  • Park Rolls: Enjoy the fresh air, sunshine, and the beauty of nature. Parks often have paved paths perfect for a leisurely roll.
  • Exercise: Adapted fitness routines can help maintain strength, flexibility, and overall health. Many gyms offer wheelchair-friendly equipment and classes.


  • Online Communities: Websites and social media groups dedicated to wheelchair users can be a treasure trove of advice, stories, and support.
  • Local Groups: Joining a local wheelchair users group can provide opportunities for meet-ups, events, and shared experiences.
  • Workshops and Seminars: These can offer valuable insights into the latest in wheelchair technology, accessibility rights, and more.

Travel with Confidence:

The world is more accessible than ever! Many tourist spots and cities now offer wheelchair-friendly routes and accommodations. Don’t shy away from exploring new places.

Advocate for Accessibility:

Use your voice and experiences to advocate for better accessibility in public spaces, transportation, and workplaces. Your insights can pave the way for a more inclusive society.

Learn and Grow:

Consider taking up new hobbies or courses. Whether painting, writing, or learning a new language, there’s no limit to what you can achieve from your wheelchair.

Fashion Forward:

Who says you can’t be stylish in a wheelchair? Embrace fashion trends, experiment with different looks, and pridefully wear your confidence.

Celebrate Milestones:

Every achievement, no matter how small, is a testament to your resilience and determination. Celebrate your milestones, from mastering a new wheelchair maneuver to reaching personal goals.

Safety First!

1. Avoid Overloading:

Carrying heavy items can affect balance. Ensure that bags or baskets attached to your wheelchair are not too heavy, and distribute weight evenly.

2. Stay Visible:

  • Reflectors and Lights: Especially important in low-light conditions or during nighttime. Attach reflectors to the back and sides of your wheelchair. Consider using LED lights for better visibility.
  • Bright Clothing: Wear brightly colored or reflective clothing to stand out, especially if you’re out and about during dusk or dawn.

3. Regular Check-ups:

  • Professional Maintenance: At least once a year, have a professional check your wheelchair to ensure everything functions correctly.
  • Self-check: Regularly inspect your wheelchair for any signs of wear and tear, loose bolts, or other potential issues.

4. Use Safety Belts:

Always wear your safety belt when in a wheelchair. It can prevent potential falls or shifts, especially when navigating uneven terrains or slopes.

5. Stay Aware of Surroundings:

Always be conscious of your environment. Look out for obstacles, uneven surfaces, or potential hazards. This is especially important in unfamiliar places.

6. Practice Safe Transfers:

When transferring to and from your wheelchair, ensure you’re on a stable surface. Use grab bars or have someone assist you if needed.

7. Avoid Steep Slopes:

Steep inclines can be challenging and potentially dangerous. Always assess the slope before attempting to navigate it. If it seems too steep, seek an alternative route or ask for assistance.

8. Wheel Locks:

Always engage the wheel locks when stationary, especially on inclines or when transferring in and out of the wheelchair.

9. Weather Considerations:

  • Rain: Wet surfaces can be slippery. Consider using non-slip hand gloves and ensure your tires have a good grip.
  • Snow and Ice: These conditions can be particularly challenging. If you must go out, use tire chains or covers for better traction.

10. Educate Companions:

If friends or caregivers often accompany you, ensure they’re educated about wheelchair safety. They can assist in navigation and be an extra set of eyes for potential hazards.


Using a wheelchair might seem daunting at first, but with the right knowledge and a bit of practice, it becomes second nature. Remember, it’s not just about mobility; it’s about embracing a new way of life with confidence and joy.

So, whether you’re wheeling through a park, navigating city streets, or simply enjoying a day out with loved ones, do it with pride and panache. After all, life is a beautiful journey and every roll counts!

Jose Alpuerto

Written by

Jose Alpuerto

With a heart that beats for the young and young-at-heart alike, Jose dives headfirst into the world of tech wizardry and safety gadgets, all with the mission of turning aging at home into an adventure. Armed with a keyboard and an unquenchable enthusiasm, he spins tales of gadgets that bring laughter and ease to the lives of the elderly, proving that growing older doesn’t mean you can’t keep the spirit of play alive.