Wheelchair Mobility

Posted by Garrison Redd in Life After Paralysis on November 18, 2022 # Lifestyle

garrisonWheelchair mobility skills are essential for individuals who sustained a spinal cord injury and now require the use of a wheelchair. As someone who has been using a manual wheelchair for 17 years, the skills I have developed bas increased my accessibility in so many places. Some people may view a wheelie as a cool trick; however, it is a very functional and important skill to learn. In this blog, I will discuss some of the skills every manual wheelchair user should have and why. You will learn about the skills that I feel everybody needs to have to safely use their manual wheelchair.

The first skill I would like to discuss that every manual wheelchair user should have or begin to develop is being able to wheelie or pop up onto any surface. Now this skill is usually viewed as a trick to our able-body counterparts, but it is actually very important for manual wheelchair users. The reason wheeling and being able to pop up is so important is because, as a wheelchair user, you are going to encounter tons of obstacles on a day-to-day basis. The way you pop your wheelchair up is by leaning back, having your hands in a 12 o’clock position and pushing forward until you find your center of gravity. After you complete those steps, your wheelchair's front wheels should be elevated. From this position, you can propel yourself over many obstacles and down different surfaces. This same movement will assist with popping down curbs and steps, as well as being able to get over obstructions in the middle of your path.

The second skill that is important to learn is being able to open and close doors. Now when it comes to this skill, there are multiple ways to safely open and close a door. The reason why this skill is so important is that it is one of the keys to independence after a spinal cord injury. Having the ability to open and close doors will increase your accessibility in many places. The technique is very important in regard to this skill, in opening a door, you have to position your wheelchair so you are able to reach a handle or knob and you have to be able to fit through the doorway. In closing a door, the same holds through, there are multiple ways you can close a door. It is going to depend on your environment in a lot of cases on what technique you use. I typically close doors backward, to elaborate more on what I mean if I am exiting out of somewhere, I will do a 180-degree turnaround and pull the door close.

The third and final skill I will mention is being able to get into your wheelchair after a fall. This skill is as important as any skill I previously mentioned. Of course, the goal is to prevent falling as much as possible, but it does happen. Depending on how you fall and whether you have a seatbelt or not, will change the technique you use to get in the chair. I am a manual wheelchair user who does not use a seatbelt or anti-tippers. I typically use the same technique whether I fall forward, backward or to the side. The first thing I always do is sit up, meaning my butt is to the ground, and I am in a sitting-up position with my legs extended. The next step I do is, I turn over the wheelchair, so it is upright. Then the last and final step I pop-in doing a floor-to-chair transfer.

In my opinion, the 3 skills mentioned above are the most important skills to have as a manual wheelchair user. The techniques used will differ from individual to individual. However, once you develop these 3 essential skills, you will be more independent. So, I will encourage everyone to work on their wheelies, opening/closing doors, and floor-to-chair transfers. Some of these movements may be a little more difficult than others, but once they are mastered, your independence will increase tremendously.

My name is Garrison Redd. I am a T-12 paraplegic born and raised in Brooklyn, NY. I am searchable under Garrison Redd on Youtube or @GarrisonRedd on Instagram and Facebook. As well as you can visit my website thegarrisonreddproject.org or email, [email protected] I hope everybody stays safe and strong.

The National Paralysis Resource Center website is supported by the Administration for Community Living (ACL), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of a financial assistance award totaling $8,700,000 with 100 percent funding by ACL/HHS. The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement, by ACL/HHS, or the U.S. Government.