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Video series: The art of wheeling

One Hand Wheeling

Generally, you that you should always use both your hands when you’re wheeling your chair.

But in the real world, there are times when you’ve only got one hand free, like when you need to carry Vanilla Latte like this one here.

The first technique is the hand switch. It means you’ll be wheeling in a zig zag path.

But since most sidewalks are sloped, you can choose a path where you’re mostly pushing on the downhill wheel so you won’t have to switch hands so much. Just don’t get up too much speed – that’s when you’ll lose control.

Using Momentum

As a full-time wheeler, your arms and shoulders are always at risk of overuse and overstrain.

One of the most useful techniques to protect yourself is to use momentum whenever you can.

The most common example is with a ramp. If you start from a standstill, then you’re putting a lot of force on your shoulders to get going.

But if you have some momentum as you approach it, then you’ll never have to exert yourself as much, and you’ll be up the ramp with fewer pushes.

Curb Jumping

Curb cuts are pretty much everywhere now, but once in a while only one side of the street has one, or they put it in a place where you have to go out of your way to get to it. And there are plenty of situations where we encounter single steps in the world.

So I’m going to teach you the fine points of curb jumping.

Getting In and Out of a Car

I use a rigid frame wheelchair, and I drive a two door car. Here’s my technique for loading my chair into my car.

Zen Wheeling

Meditation is the practice of being in the present, not carried off by thoughts of the past and future. Wheeling your chair can be a kind of meditation, or what I call “Zen Wheeling.”

Here’s why it’s important: As full time wheelers we waste energy, or worse, injure our shoulders and back because we try to maintain a consistent speed, or always travel in a straight line. Sometimes we get frustrated with uneven surfaces.

About Gary Karp

Gary Karp is an author and speaker whose goal is to enlighten society to the radical changes that have taken place in what he calls “Modern Disability.” A wheelchair user following a spinal cord injury he incurred in 1973 at the age of 18, Gary has produced four books, written extensively as a disability journalist, and speaks to a wide array of audiences, including, business, government, and associations, where he is remembered for his passion, clarity, and humor as well as his dazzling juggling skills! Since 2003 Gary has traveled the U.S. speaking at universities and rehab centers under the sponsorship of the Christopher & Dana Reeve Paralysis Resource Center. In 2007, Gary was inducted into the Spinal Cord Injury Hall of Fame as a disability educator. Learn more about him at moderndisability.com.

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 $10,000,000 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.