Adapting to using a wheelchair

Those affected by a disability do not always receive enough advice on how to prepare and adapt their lifestyles to accommodate a change in mobility. People can become disabled for a range of reasons, including worsening medical conditions, physical trauma or by a sudden illness. However, providing guidance and assurance for those affected is essential as Independent Living explore the implications of adapting to using a wheelchair.

Accessibility in the home

While accessibility within the home is an obvious necessity, it is often overtaken by other stresses when a person has to adapt to a disability. For example, most standard doors measure 28-32 inches, and are not friendly to wheelchair dimensions, so you might need to account for this. A typical wheelchair will need a doorway of at least 36 inches, and space can be gained by switching to specially designed door hinges. Storage is also important, and a folding wheelchair has become a popular specification for users.

Ramps are an effective solution for areas which have stairs, they are easy to install and not a costly addition to the home. Even things such as carpets can cause difficulties, as they can obstruct the wheels from moving properly. An alternative to consider is laminate, a cost-effective smooth surface which suits wheelchair friendly homes. Perhaps adding facilities such as a walk-in shower or stairlift could also be a good step in the adjustment process, as it is important to make the user feel welcome and independent in their space. Recent findings established that 57 million Americans are currently living with a disability, and the government are facing increasing pressure to build more affordable, accessible housing to meet this figure. Small fittings such as lowered light switches, door bells and grab rails are just some of the small additions which could have a huge impact onto the lives of disabled residents.

Outdoor accessibility

Most state authorities will have areas of dropped sidewalk, providing a flat surface for disabled people to travel over, and it can be useful to get accustomed to navigating these surfaces in a wheelchair. Over time, wheelchair users familairise themselves with chair-friendly places, whether it’s certain footpaths to high street stores and supermarkets. One major issue for many disabled people is height, as wheelchairs often don’t account for the layout of most modern stores and are left to ask for assistance. While everyone wants to feel independent, it could be useful to take a friend or relative along on your first shopping trip or walk, just to get accustomed with the environment from a new perspective.

Feeling comfortable  

Many people rely heavily on their wheelchair for everyday mobility, and some people need to use them for bigger tasks, but regardless being comfortable is important. An inflatable cushion for the chair can be a great start, as can travelling with a backpack attached to keep items close to the person. Anti-tip bars can be helpful for preventing any falls, as the maintain control to the rear of the chair and prevent the front from tipping when making any adjustments. Many disabled people express how patience must be learnt, as you will slowly adapt to new approaches to even the smallest of tasks; cooking, changing a bed and washing will all require a revised approach, but it’s important to have a trial and error approach. Some prior planning can become handy before taking a trip to the shops or even filling your car with petrol, where you can usually seek assistance from a cashier.

Being patient and giving yourself or a loved one time to adjust is vital, and the changes a disability brings can result in a whole range of daily challenges. There are many home adaptations as well as outdoor considerations which can all assist in the process.



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