Power wheelchairs and seated electric scooters are an important tool for people with disabilities. They can make it much easier for someone with mobility issues to navigate their world and run short errands.
But safety comes from understanding that power wheelchairs are at a distinct disadvantage when they’re facing off against all the faster, bigger vehicles that are out there. Just like pedestrians, bicyclists and motorcycle riders, power wheelchair users need to take precautions.
Here are some important safety tips:
- Find the right chair and learn how to use it safely. Pick your wheelchair (power or otherwise) in consultation with your doctor or physical therapist. Once you have it, spend some time bending, reaching and moving in the chair while you’re safe at home so that you better understand your center of gravity and the movements of the chair.
- Make sure that you’re visible. Your chair is likely a basic color, like black or steel — neither of which are particularly visible against the gray backwash of a cityscape. You want drivers to be able to see you from a distance at any angle, so add reflective tape, lights and a flag.
- Don’t take unnecessary risks. It may take a while to learn how to navigate public buildings, crosswalks and other areas. Not every sidewalk is designed with a wheelchair user in mind, and a sidewalk or ramp that’s badly designed or in disrepair can put you in danger of a serious accident. Always allow yourself plenty of time to get to a destination so that you’re not rushing and overlook a hazard in your path.
Despite your best safety measure, there’s no guarantee that you won’t end up in an accident. Poorly designed accessibility features are a chronic hazard, as are distracted drivers. If you end up in a wheelchair accident, find out how an experienced advocate can get you the compensation you need to recover financially.