Wheelchair Safety in Cold/ Frosty Weather

I did a brief vlog on this topic recently that I will attach below but I just wanted to respond to some of my followers’ questions and comments on this topic. Thank you all for all of your interactions; I appreciate your support as always!

I’ve been a wheelchair user for over three years now so have had my fair share of icy/snowy weather while living in the UK so I wanted to share some of the things that I believe are most important when going out as a wheelchair user in cold weather.

  1. https://www.blogger.com/video.g?token=AD6v5dyHrs1938CsTQ1Kpw3NKYTicLJ623AJd_C7EA4NAc2AU5W_oCtXLpl9Oc3xwqQNzWZaIsTjnXcU466VJUW13w My first suggestion would absolutely be to wrap up warm. A wheelchair user can often find they get cold quicker than an able-bodied person since they move around less to keep warm. I would definitely suggest adding layers to your outfit and perhaps even folding a warm blanket up to play underneath your wheelchair cushion. That way you can cover yourself with this blanket if you find yourself getting particularly cold!
  • Never go out alone in adverse weather. I personally never leave the house without a friend/ family member or my partner to accompany me since I have unpredictable medical conditions, However, I think it’s particularly important to have someone with you when the weather is cold or icy. This way you have someone that can help you if the terrain is slippery or your wheels get stuck in the mud that is often created by snow melting on grass. Plus, it also helps to let another person close-by know the route you’re planning on taking with your companion in case you run into any problems!

    A wintery walk with a companion is always fun and you can utilise a powered wheelchair if you want to retain some independence and the ability to steer your own pathway. Personally, I recommend the WHILL model C as it has variable speed settings that allow me to keep up with an able-bodied companion’s walking speed and it also gives me a numerical battery percentage gauge. This means I can be fully aware that I only have 48% of my wheelchair battery remaining so I can be aware of when I need to start heading back home.
  • Be wary of the terrain. In icy or snowy conditions, even your tried and tested pathways and routes can suddenly be dangerous for a wheelchair user.

    Ice can make your wheelchair wheels lose grip and slip across surfaces so this is particularly unsafe. Plus, it can freeze pathways into uneven bumpy tracks. My WHILL Model C is very good here as it has omniwheels as the front two wheels which are specially designed to allow the wheelchair user to easily weave around obstacles such as frozen puddles or icy lumps in the pathway. The controls of the WHILL C respond really quickly so you can avoid obstacles at the last minute and easily weave around them.

    Snow can make the terrain unsafe too as it can reduce grip on the surface. Plus, as it starts to melt it often creates very muddy pathways and fields which mean that a wheelchair user can find their wheels sinking into ruts. If this happens, having companion around is very helpful as they can help you out of any sunken muddy rut you are in or call someone else to help. 
  • Look at weather forecasts before you venture out. In the UK, weather can change quite rapidly and no matter how brilliant your wheelchair is, if you get stuck far from home in a full scale blizzard, you are going to get cold and wet! Plus, these sort of weather types are unsafe to go far in.
  • Think about alternative routes. In icy weather you have to be particularly careful when travelling down any hill or incline that hasn’t been fully salted or gritted. This also applies to steep ramps to access any building or toilet block. If these haven’t been gritted then it is very easy to lost control on these inclines and slip when in your wheelchair. A close friend of mine even fell out of her wheelchair when it lost control on an ungritted toilet access ramp! 
  • Above all, make sure you are taking precautions before you go outside to join in the wintery fun! Take a fully charged mobile phone along with you just in case you need help along your way. Safety comes first and sometimes letting the ground thaw a little and staying indoors is the safest way to go when you are on wheels!

Send me an email on disabledtravelwithgeorgina@gmail.com if you think I’ve missed anything out! Thank you all for your support and interactions as always!