Where can you go in your new power wheelchair? You now know how to obtain one and how to take care of it, but where can you go? The power chair was built for people who can’t move a chair with their arms or hands; it was made to get people around the home with carpet or hardwood flooring. Some power chairs are just not built for getting around outside or going very far, but you will still see people in these power wheelchairs driving down sidewalks or crossing the parking lot at the local grocery store. Accessibility can seem daunting, but hopefully this article will help you learn how to be accessible in your new power chair.
Let’s start with how to get around in the home and the changes you will have to make to it so that it is accessible for a wheelchair.
Getting Around Your Home
Before you were injured, your home was designed in such a way as to enable able-bodied people to enter and exit it. Going up and down stairs or being able to stand and lean over the bathroom sink to wash your face are tasks you may have taken for granted before the accident. I am sorry to say, you will no longer be standing to perform these tasks – you will be sitting – and you will have to learn how to function in a seated position from now on.
These tasks are just the beginning of the changes you will need to make. The very way you get around your home is going to be completely different now, and you may not realize the array of challenges you will face until you are faced with them. But thankfully, other people have been where you are now, including me. You can make your home wheelchair accessible and be able to easily move around in it.
The cabinetry that your sink sits in will need to be changed, making it possible for you to drive your wheelchair underneath the countertop so that you can lean over the sink to brush your teeth or wash your face.
It is wise to have a roll-in shower built rather than keeping your regular tub; this will limit the amount of transfers in and out of your wheelchair, and is a lot easier on your caregiver’s back.
Stairs, Doorways and Flooring
The new floor you need will depend on what kind of chair you have. If you have a manual wheelchair, I recommend hardwood floors or tile. These floors will make it easy on your shoulders and arms, and not wear them out before their time. However, if you have a power wheelchair, you are accessible on hardwood, carpet, or tile. Basically, it doesn’t matter what floor you have, your power chair will get across it.
The stairs to your front door will have to be taken out and a ramp be put in their place. The doorways will have to be widened because power wheelchairs are a lot wider than a standing person walking through it.
Moving Around Away From Home
Now that your home is accessible and you can get in and out of it and move around in it, you want to get out in the world and see new things in new places. However, there are a lot of places that are not very close to your home, and power wheelchairs are not light or easy to lift into the trunk of a car. Nor will they fit.
Luckily there are many different types of transportation with wheelchair lifts and driving aids. Paraplegics and quadriplegics have very different physical abilities. Paraplegics can get in and out of a regular car because they have the use of their arms but not their legs. Quadriplegics do not have the use of their arms or their legs, but some do have the use of their shoulders and some muscles in their arms, making it possible for them to transfer from their chair into the car.
However, chronic use of this type of movement can cause damage over time. Rotator cuffs wear out and you may start to develop dislocated shoulders. Therefore, it would be wise to look into purchasing a van that can be retrofitted to transport a wheelchair. I am sad to say that this type of conversion to a minivan is quite costly, but don’t fret! There are used minivans in the classifieds that have already been converted for transporting wheelchair users. Used minivans won’t cost as much as new converted ones but the lift on the used minivans might be outdated. Do your homework on the types of lifts that are not obsolete before purchasing a used vehicle. After all, you don’t want to be stuck with a minivan with a lift they don’t make parts for anymore.
Other means of transportation also exist for which you don’t have to pay top dollar. Public transportation is a big one if you cannot afford a minivan with a lift. I myself use public transportation and it gets me all over the Salt Lake Valley. I take the bus and Trax. While it has taken some time to learn these different types of transportation, once I figured it out, I was able to go anywhere in the Salt Lake Valley, not to mention save a great deal of money. If you’re a person that doesn’t have a lot of money, I recommend public transportation.
Public transportation does have its drawbacks, namely the weather. When it rains or snows, make sure you cover up and dress warmly and also be sure to cover your chair. During the summer months, try not to go out during the hottest period of the day, which is from noon to 6 PM. If you do go out in hot weather, dress in light colored clothing, wear sunscreen and sunglasses, and drink lots of water. Power wheelchairs don’t work very well in the snow because they get stuck easily, so when it snows, stay home or call Paratransit.
Paratransit is another form of transportation in the Salt Lake Valley that is a curbside service which picks you up at your home. All you have to do is call the Paratransit call center and schedule the trips you want to take.
Before you do schedule an appointment with Paratransit, they will do an assessment to see if you qualify to ride it. They will also ask you for a written letter from your doctor telling them that you can only be outside at certain temperatures.
We have now covered two different areas for which a change in accessibility for wheelchair users is needed. First, it is very important to make sure that your home is a place where you can get in, out and get around in. Second, once you are ready and willing to go out into the world, it is important to know the different types of transportation available to get you to places to which you want to go.
Knowing this will ensure your happiness in becoming a more independent injured person. Your life may have changed, but it is not over. There are many ways of getting back out there and living your life again after an injury.