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How to Use a Wheelchair | Tips and Tricks for All Situations

By Maurice

How to Use a Wheelchair

So you’ve picked a good wheelchair for your needs, and you’re ready to start motoring!  

It’s mostly easy to use a wheelchair, but there can be some safety concerns in specific situations where you might need some guidance.

Here are some tips and tricks to show you how to use a wheelchair in tricky situations, like getting out of a car, onto the toilet, on the bed, and more. This can help you stay safe from falls, accidents, and other hazards!

How to Use a Wheelchair Safely

You have to be aware of the center of your gravity when using a wheelchair. Most actions require users to bend, transfer, and reach out while using a wheelchair. This requires you to change your balance and weight distribution accordingly. Sitting in a proper position is important to ensure that you can maintain your stability and balance. This can mean trying out a few things before you start using the wheelchair outdoors and transferring in and out of it.

  1. 1Bending Backwards

When you are reaching out while bending backward, you need to make sure that the position of the wheelchair is as close to what you are reaching out to. Try to reach out with your arm without fiddling around with your seated position too much. In no circumstance should you try and tilt the wheelchair at all.

  1. 2Bending Forward

If you are being forced to position further forward on the seat to reach out for something, you shouldn’t attempt it at all. It can be dangerous. It is better to extend the casters away from the wheels and lock the chair before you reach forward.

  1. 3Tipping

If your helper is tipping the chair, they should grasp the chair by a non-removable part. He should be leaning back to support the weight of the chair.

  1. 4Curbs  

Moving through any curbs on the road requires someone’s assistance. Steps, curbs, and staircases are all quite tough obstacles to encounter, and looking for ramps, cuts, or elevators is a better idea.

  1. 5Accident Prevention

Falling and tipping are common accidents that wheelchair users can face. Slippery surfaces, high speeds, unlocked brakes, unstable seating, and bumps can all cause the wheelchair to become unbalanced. Make sure the tipper level is secure and be mindful of speed on rough surfaces and tight corners.

  1. 6Outdoor Use

Some wheelchairs are created specifically for outdoor use. But, you still have to be mindful when it comes to certain weather conditions and surfaces that may not be wheelchair-friendly. The worst types of surfaces are sandy since sand can make the wheelchair spin, unbalance, or tip over. Any wet surfaces or puddles can also cause you to lose control. Any ramps should also be checked for holes, slippery areas, or uneven surfaces.

  1. 7Servicing and Maintenance

The wheelchair will be more dependable and will last a lot longer if you keep it in top condition. You should make sure to perform maintenance on it at least once every year.

How to Get a Wheelchair Upstairs

You need two helpers to get the wheelchair up the stairs. You also need to make sure the user is completely fitted into the chair. Using a seat belt can be a good idea as well while going up the stairs. The helper needs to stand on the stair if you want to move the wheelchair upstairs. They should hold the handles with the backrest towards the stairs so that you can lift and pull the wheelchair up. They also need to make sure they have a tight grip on the handles so that they don’t accidentally drop the wheelchair.

The second helper needs to stand in front of the wheelchair. They should be facing the user and need to provide support during the transfer. They need to hold the wheelchair frame while making sure that their grip on the chair is tight and secure. Make sure that you aren’t holding removable parts of the chair since they can come loose.

Both helpers need to bend their knees when you are making the transfer up the stairs. You need to lift with the legs and arch your back before you lift. The first helper behind the chair should have one foot on the step right above the chair with the other foot on the step above.

When you are in position, the helpers need to tilt the chair back with ease and find a balancing point before applying any force. When you tilt the chair, the front wheels will be up in the air, with the back wheels taking most of the weight. While the wheels are in the air, both helpers should make sure they have a good grip.

The helpers can then lift and transfer the chair up the stairs one by one.

How to Transfer From Bed to Wheelchair

If you are transferring the user from the bed to the chair, you need to make sure that you will be able to support the patient completely before attempting it. Otherwise, you can injure yourself or the wheelchair user.

The second thing you need to ensure is that any loose rugs aren’t getting in the way, or else, you can slip on them. One safety measure you can take is to put on non-slip shoes or socks on yourself or the user if you need to step onto a slippery surface.

To start with:

  • You should explain the process to the user first
  • Park the wheelchair next to the bed and close to you
  • Make sure the brakes are on
  • The footrests are not in the way

The patient needs to be sitting in order to make the transfer. They may feel dizzy from sitting up suddenly after lying down for a while, so make sure they are seated for a few moments before trying to make the transfer. If they cannot sit up, put one arm under the shoulder blades of the user and one behind the knees. Make sure your knees are bent, and then swing the user’s feet off the bed’s edge and help the user into a sitting position. Move the user to the bed’s edge so that their feet touch the ground.

A gait belt can help during the transfer since it allows a better grip. While you are making the pivot turn onto the chair, the user should either reach out for the chair or hold onto you. To make the transfer, you need to be standing as close to the user as you can before reaching around their chest and locking your arms behind the user.

Follow the steps below to make the pivot turn into the chair:

  1. 1Place the user’s knee that is farthest from the chair between your knees to provide support. Make sure your back is straight, and knees are bent.
  2. 2Stand up slowly by using your legs to lift up.
  3. 3The user can also place their hands on their sides and help to get up from the bed.
  4. 4If they can, the user should support their weight as much as they can during the transfer on their legs.
  5. 5Begin to pivot towards the chair while moving your feet so that the back comes in line with your hips.
  6. 6When the legs of the user touch the seat, bend your knees so that you can lower the user into the seat.
  7. 7Ask the user to reach out for the chair’s armrests while they are being lowered as well.

If at any point during the move, the user is falling, then you should lower the user to the nearest possible flat surface – the chair, the bed, or the floor.

How to Transfer From Wheelchair to Toilet

To move the patient onto the toilet, you should make sure that all bath rugs or mats are out of the way, the wheelchair is in the right position with locks in place, and the footrests are out of the way. If needed, you should also unfasten the belt or button of the user’s pants.

To lift them from the wheelchair, ask them to scoot as forward as they can and then lean forward. The user should put their hands onto the armrests of the chair and push up, or they can hold onto your forearms. Stand as close as you can facing them and hold onto their waist. Stand up straight together slowly while using your knees.

If the user’s legs aren’t strong enough to support their weight for even a few seconds, place your knees directly in front of their knees as they stand. If one side is weaker, it can be better to stand on that side to offer support.

To get them seated on the toilet, you need to pivot them until the back of their knees is at the toilet seat. While making sure that you are holding them with one hand, you can help them lower their pants and underwear. Make sure they lower themselves slowly onto the toilet seat with your help.

To get them back in the wheelchair, it is the same procedure just reversed.

How to Get a Wheelchair-Bound Person into a Car

To transfer the user from the wheelchair into a car, you will need a straight bar for a manual style lifting option. The t-bar attachment is needed for the lift and the standard sling, as well as two people for assistance.

To set up:

  • Position the wheelchair and place the locks
  • Position the sling
  • Recline the seat of the car and open the door from the passenger side
  • The lift base should be in the widest position
  • The lift should be in position
  • The sling should be connected to the chain hooks. The length of the chain can vary, which is why you should refer to the recommendations by the expert.
  • The manual pump can be used to lift the person into the air
  • Once off the surface, the lift can be pulled back and turned so that it is between the vehicle and the wheelchair.

You then have to pivot the person so that their head can go in first. Their head and the top of the bar needs to be positioned inside the car. As the head is moving into the car, the user should be rotated so that their knees and legs are facing the front of the seat. The helper inside the car will assist where help is needed. When the person is safely inside the car, the lift can be lowered, and the sling can be unhooked.

When the person is safely inside the car, make sure that all safety restraints, such as the shoulder and lap belt, should be in place. Make sure the seat is raised or inclined and never drive while the seat is reclined back.


We hope now you know how to use a wheelchair in all sorts of situations. Do make sure that whatever you are doing with the wheelchair is a very deliberate act since it can affect the safety of the user.

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