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Wheelchair Users: Tips for Safe and Active Snowy Winters

A vector image showing a wheelchair user in winter clothes outside with snow and trees.
Samyak Lalit
Samyak Lalit | December 11, 2022 (Last update: December 11, 2022)

Samyak Lalit is an author and disability rights activist. He is a polio survivor and the founder of projects like Kavita Kosh, Gadya Kosh, TechWelkin, WeCapable, Dashamlav and Viklangta Dot Com. Website:

Winters bring extra baggage of challenges for wheelchair users. The cold winter months are not simply difficult but can be dangerous to people who use wheelchairs on a regular basis. Snowfall might give a romanticized feeling to us all but it creates severe inaccessibility issues for wheelchair users. The temperature regulation mechanism of people with spinal cord injury and other neurological disorders gets severely affected by a drop in temperature. But, wheelchair users have a life to live and we cannot choose to hibernate as many creatures do. Right?

So, here we are discussing some great tips to make the snowy winters a little less difficult for a wheelchair user.

1. Put on Layers

The first and very obvious tip for winter would be to put on some extra layers of winter clothes. But, for wheelchair users, it is not as simple as putting on a scarf or an extra layer of body warmer. You should ensure that you are covered tip to toe and the cover should be in layers. Instead of donning a thick sweater, you should wear layers and layers of breathable clothing. This ensures that the heat is trapped well and you are protected from cold. Wheelchair blankets can be used as an additional layer too.

This is extremely important for people with spinal cord injury and other neurological disorders whose body has a reduced ability to maintain optimum temperature.

2. Pay Attention to High Visibility

Winter months can be dark and gloomy due to the absence of shining sun. Environmental factors like fog and snow too play important role in decreasing visibility range during the winters. If you are a wheelchair user make sure to pay attention on making yourself highly visible when going out during the winter. Wear high-visibility clothes and accessories to avoid any accidents. For example, white clothes on white snow will almost make you invisible to the other vehicle drivers. You can also achieve high visibility by adding accessories like reflectors in your wheelchair.

3. Pick Your Gloves Wisely

Gloves are an important addition to winter clothes for everyone. But as a wheelchair user, you need to pay extra attention to choosing the right pair of gloves for you, especially if you use a manual wheelchair. Pushing a wheelchair needs a good grip over the rims so you need to pick a glove that protects you from the cold and doesn’t negatively impact your grip. It is better to test a glove personally before buying it; you don’t want a glove that will loosen your grip over your push rim.

4. Prepare Wheelchair Traction and Tire Pressure for the Winter

This is more important for you if you reside in an area where it snows in the winter. Melting snow and slippery leaves can negatively impact the grip of wheelchair wheels on the ground. It is important to make your wheelchair winter-ready by ensuring that wheels have suitable traction and air pressure in the tires. You can take professional help for the purpose or use a handy bike pump and pressure gauge for your wheelchair tire.

If you normally use a manual wheelchair and find it difficult to go out on it during snowy winters, switching to an electric wheelchair can be a good option too. Changing the wheelchair tires for winter months is also a viable option. Wider tires with knobby treads and softer rubber perform better in winter.

5. Keep Your Wheelchair Dry

Many places around the world witness rain during the winter. The winter rains do not only make us shiver with cold it can also make going out too difficult. If you are an electric wheelchair user, you must know how important it is to keep your wheelchair controls dry. A wet road and wet push rims can also make wheelchair propulsion difficult. A wheelchair poncho is an effective way to keep your wheelchair and yourself safe from winter rains and maybe a slight snowfall if you got caught in one.

6. Keep Yourself Moving and Active

Though cold temperature makes us feel lethargic it is important to keep ourselves moving. The cold temperature has a very negative impact on our blood circulation and other health parameters. This negative impact gets multiplied when a person leads a sedentary lifestyle. So, if you are a wheelchair user you need to stay as much active as you can to keep your blood circulation going.

7. Keep Everything Charged when Going Out

Do you use a power chair? Do you have a mobile? Keep them fully charged when going out in the winter. A snowy road and unpredictable winter rains are a few things that increase many types of risks for wheelchair users. So, if you are going out make sure your wheelchair is fully charged so that you don’t get stuck anywhere. If you still get stuck or encounter any issues you need to be connected to your cellphone and must be well charged too. Because it can rain, you should also make sure to keep your cell phone dry with a waterproof cover just like a wheelchair poncho for your wheelchair.

You must know that power chairs consume greater battery power when they have to move in a difficult situation like snow.

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