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Preparing Your Wheelchair for Snow

It's finally starting to feel like a real winter in the Midwest.

Getting around in a wheelchair in good weather can be hard. But if you live where it snows, getting around during the winter can be almost impossible. Icy sidewalks can cause your wheelchair to slide or roll backwards. And your wheels can sink in the snow, making it hard to move, or your chair could even tip over. Learn how to get around more easily and safely with these wheelchair snow tips. 

Gillette patient Peter Adkins is being pushed up his home entrance ramp by his parent

Power Wheelchair Snow Tips 

  • Full power: Wheelchair batteries don’t hold a charge as well in colder weather and could run down faster trying to get over snow and ice. Before you use your power wheelchair in the snow, make sure you have a full charge and that you keep your trip short. 
  • Stay dry: If your wheelchair controller (joystick) isn’t waterproof, cover it with a joystick cover or a plastic bag. Water from melting snow or ice can cause it to stop working. 

Manual Wheelchair Snow Tips 

  • Tighten up: Be sure to do a wheelchair tune-up before heading into winter and that all the hardware on your chair is tightened down.  
  • Get traction: If you can, have an extra set of wheelchair snow tires for the winter months on quick-mount wheels. Good winter tires are wider with knobby treads and softer rubber to grip the street and sidewalk better. 
  • Glove up: Wear water-resistant gloves to keep your hands dry and warm. Even if there isn’t snow or ice, pushing metal push-rims in freezing weather is hard to do with bare skin. 

Snow Tips for All Wheelchairs 

  • Chair maintenance: Check your caster wheels for hair wrapped around the axles. The hair will wear out your caster bearings more quickly and make the wheel stop spinning.  
  • Be Visible: Winter means shorter days. If you’re out at night, it can be hard for people to see you. You may want to buy headlights and taillights, add high-visibility tape, or wear high-visibility clothing and add a safety flag to your wheelchair frame. 
  • Wheelchair snow blades: Wheelblades are like small skis that attach to the front wheels of your wheelchair to help your wheels glide on top of the snow. Combining wheel blades with other wheelchair traction devices for snow and ice like snow tires makes it easier to get around.  

Other Winter Weather Tips 

  • Stay warm: Wear several layers, including a water-resistant coat and clothing. Be extra careful with any part of your body that has lost feeling. You may not notice the cold or feel it too late to avoid frostbite. You may even want to pack extra clothes in a backpack in case you get wet.  
  • Full power: When going out, make sure your smartphone is fully charged. Your wheelchair could tip, roll, and skid into places that you can’t get out of and you may need to call for help. 
  • Go slow: Build in some extra time for your outing. Being in a hurry can cause accidents. 
  • Wear a helmet: When winter cruising in a wet, slippery and lower-visibility world, it’s a good idea to protect your head by wearing a helmet. 

Stay Active All Year-Round 

While it can be more difficult to get around in the winter, getting out will make it more enjoyable. You can learn more about the wide variety of wheelchairs and other mobility equipment available here. If your child is interested in athletics, consider these adapted sports, including winter activities like basketball and swimming.