How to Use a Wheelchair

Photo of a wheelchairUnfolding A Wheelchair: Most wheelchairs are unfolded by pushing down and out on the side edges of the seat, keeping the fingers inwards. Never put your fingers between the frame and the seat - you could injure yourself.

Folding A Wheelchair: Turn the footplates upright, and if detachable, rotate or remove footplate. Pull the seat upwards or use the grab handles. Before using wheelchair, always make sure that the chair is in a good working condition, such as brakes are okay, tires are firm, etc. Before transferring someone into the chair, make sure that the brakes are locked; and lift up, or swing away, the footrests to prevent the person from falling over the footplates. If the armrests are detachable, take out the armrest nearest to the person to provide an easier transfer in or out of the wheelchair.

Encourage, or assist, the person to sit back into the chair in the most neutral position possible. Make sure fingers cannot be caught in the wheels. When approaching a narrow doorway use caution to ensure the wheelchair occupant's elbows are inside the wheelchair. This will prevent the person's elbows and arms from hitting the door frame.

Going Up and Down Curbs: Place the wheelchair at a right angle facing the curb. Stand behind the wheelchair while holding onto the push handles. Step onto the tilting bar at the rear of the wheelchair and tilt the wheelchair carefully backwards or towards you. Lift the front casters onto the curb and push the chair forward on its back wheels until they touch the curb. Then, gently lower the chair down until the front casters touch the pavement, and then lift the back wheels onto the curb. To go down a curb just do the opposite. Stand with the back of the wheelchair at a right angle to the curb. Step down, and again tilt the wheelchair by stepping onto the tilting bar. Wheel the chair backwards down, on its back wheels, and again gently lower the chair until its front casters touch the pavement or floor.

Going Up Stairs: Two people are required to safely go up and down stairs. The chair should always face the bottom of the stairs when going up or down. When going up, place the wheelchair backwards at a right angle to the stairs. Tilt the chair by stepping onto the tilting bar. The person holding onto the push handles is the leading person. The second person grasps the wheelchair frame. Do not grasp any detachable part. The leading person gives the command. Step-by-step the leading person pulls the chair up and the second person pushes the chair up and prevents any unwanted downward movements.

Going Down Stairs: Place the wheelchair front at a right angle to the stairs. The lead person is the one going down first (the person grasping the wheelchair frame), and the person at the wheelchair's push handles moves forward with a pulling back action to prevent the chair from tumbling down or tipping forward precipitously. The chair should be safely tilted and moved forward one step at a time on the way down the stairs.

Entering an Elevator: The best way to enter an elevator is to wheel the chair in backwards. To exit the elevator, wheel the chair out facing forward. This also avoids the need to turn the wheelchair inside a confined space.