How to Use a Wheelchair – The Ultimate Guide

If you have never used a wheelchair before, or you have never taken care of someone who needs the assistance of a wheelchair, you might be intimidated by the device. You could benefit from the advice that people who have had experience with these items can give you. Whenever we use something we learn little things that can always be beneficial to other people.So, you definitely need to know how to use a wheelchair. 

Of course you know that these mobility devices have wheels and they allow people to go to places they otherwise could not go to, or they would otherwise have difficulty getting to. But, you want to know little tips and tricks to making the use of a mobility device easier, and less stressful.

I gathered the following tips from several individuals who use wheelchairs on a regular basis.


How to Use  Wheelchair # Howtousewheelchair

Click to Tweet

How to Use a Wheelchair Which is Manual 

A manually operated wheelchair is a mobility device that has no motor to propel it forward. The chair is moved forwards and backwards by the power of the person sitting in the seat, or a caregiver that is positioned behind the seat.


Manual chairs may be transport chairs that are lightweight and fold easily so they can be carried in vehicles, or they could be manual chairs that are larger and meant for use inside the home. You will find chairs that are designed to reduce pressure related ulcers, and chairs that can be used during the participation in sporting games like basketball.

  • In order to execute a turn using the smallest amount of space possible you should push one wheel forward while pushing the other wheel backwards
  • Never lean forward and allow your upper torso to be extended farther than the seat of the chair extends. It is better to reposition the chair to make something easier to reach than it is to overextend your body and possibly fall from the chair
  • Always lock the wheels before transferring from the chair or into the chair
  • If you regularly have to Operate a Wheelchair in areas that have inclines you might want to consider purchasing hill holders for your chair. Hill holders allow the chair to move forward and not roll backwards when the individual has to stop pushing and rest their arms. You can easily disengage the hill holders when they are not required.
  • You can buy flags from bicycle shops and attach these items on poles to the back of the chair to increase the visibility of the mobility device to people in vehicles.
    If you are traveling across a parking lot without flags it is possible that a motorist might not see you behind them when they are backing up. The flags will alert the attention of the driver so you stand a lesser risk of injury by a motor vehicle in a parking lot or parking garage
  • Small cracks in the sidewalk or asphalt can cause you to lose balance in the chair. The smaller front tires of these mobility devices often have a difficult time crossing cracks and you should slow down and approach these areas with caution. If you have no one with you that could help you it can often be wiser to turn the device around and avoid cracks and obstacles.
  • Wear gloves when you will be manually operating the chair outdoors. The gloves will help prevent you from injuring your hands and will help you to keep your hands clean
  • You may have to approach small slopes at an angle to be able to maneuver over them without rolling backward
  • You can buy anti-tippers that will help keep you from turning the chair over when you are raising the front up to climb onto a sidewalk or over a curb
  • When you are about to cross the street make sure that you visually locate the easy access for your chair before you head across the street
  • Do not put cushions on the seat of the chair that can easily slip out of the chair. Secure cushioning devices because you are going to feel even the slightest incline or decline and if the cushion can slide out of the chair it may cause you to slide out of the seat and be injured in the process
  • You want the tires to be properly inflated at all times to help the chair be able to roll smoothly
  • If you are incapable of maneuvering around without the aid of the chair make sure that every place you intend to go has access for you and your chair. Do not assume that a public building will have a wheelchair accessible ramp, and consider taking a caregiver with you when you go to new locations for the first time in case their wheelchair ramps are too steep for you to handle alone. Once you know the conditions of a building you will be able to go alone with confidence.
  • Try to get a chair with a cup holder so you can have your drinks readily accessible to you.

Tips to Help Caregivers Use a Manually Operated Wheelchair


Caregivers are the people who assist people who are mobility challenged. Some caregivers are full time on the job and other caregivers only assist the individual when they leave their homes to go on outings.

A caregiver must learn how to properly assist the individual to make their experiences with a best wheelchair bound individual go more smoothly, and be less stressful.

  • Whenever you are pushing a wheelchair bound individual and you encounter soft ground, or you come across severely rough areas you must traverse, you might find it easier to pull the wheelchair than it is to try and push the wheelchair.
  • If you are trying to fold a transport chair that has an upholstered seat the easiest way to accomplish this task is by grasping the seat at the front and the back and lifting straight up
  • To unfold a manual wheelchair in one quick motion you can lean the chair to one side and assert pressure on the seat rail with your foot. You will find the seat rail by looking to see where the seat is attached, and this portion of the chair is designed to collapse inwards and fold the chair
  • Always lock the wheels before trying to transfer the person into or out of the chair
  • If you have to push the individual over a low curb or a low obstacle you might find that pushing down on the side frame of the chair while you are tilting the chair backwards will cause the front wheels to lift enough to allow them to step up over the curb. Once the front casters are over the obstacle you can then push forward slightly while lifting up on the handles to help the rear tires climb over the obstacle. If the chair has anti-flipped devices installed you might have to disengage them before you can perform this maneuver.
  • If you tie a length of rope that measures about three feet to the doorknobs of interior doors you will find that the doors are easier for you to close when you leave the room
  • Put a backpack on the back of the chair to help you carry needed supplies along with you
  • Always lift the footrests or swing them away so you do not trip over them when transferring the individual into or out of the chair
  • Always lock the rear wheel brakes when you are going to be away from the chair and the individual seated in it. You do not want the chair to accidentally roll or move so that it injures the person
  • Try to avoid having the chair outside in wet conditions. If water gets into the wheel bearings it can cause them to rust or seize so that the wheels no longer turn freely.
    If the chair gets wet dry it completely as quickly as possible and check to see if the chair has bearings that you can add grease to. Sealed bearings are less likely to be affected by water, but bearings you can grease yourself will usually be longer lasting.
  • Try to sit down and look the individual seated in the chair and the eye when you need to speak to them at length. People seated in chairs often experience neck strain from looking up to talk to other people.

Tips on Using Electrically Powered Wheelchairs

Electric powered, or battery powered, devices are used slightly differently than the manual chairs are.So, as you are wanting to know how to use a wheelchair you should also know about this special kind of wheelchair's operations as well . 

  • Never lean forward farther than the seat extends to prevent falling
  • Wear the seat restraint to prevent falls
  • Never reach backwards to try and reach an item because you might cause the chair to tip backwards
  • Keep your arms, hands, and feet, safely inside the framework of the chair so you are not injured if the chair tips over
  • Practice using the controls of the chair until you are comfortable with them before you go out in public
  • Charge the battery according to the manufacturer’s instructions to increase the life of the battery. Try to charge the battery during times when you will be resting like at night while you are sleeping.
  • Avoid being out in the rain whenever possible. Rain can be detrimental on the battery powered controls.
  • Choose a chair that is suited to your needs. Chairs with larger back wheels are better suited for traversing over uneven terrain, and chairs with baskets help you to shop, or carry the things you need to carry around the house.
  • Try to get a chair that can be manually operated if the battery needs to be charged and you need to use the chair.
  • Do not try to cross over terrain that is wet or muddy. These mobility devices can become stuck in the mud.
  • Keep your operators manual so you can easily refer to it if you have any questions
  • When you make reservations confirm whether or not the establishment is wheelchair friendly
  • Some chairs have adjustable speed settings. You want to set the speed limits low so that you do not get to rolling too quickly and are unable to stop yourself.
  • Keep a tire inflation device readily available at your home to keep the tires properly inflated
  • Avoid crossing over broken glass because a deflated tire could leave you stranded
  • Keep a tire inflator with you on your chair in case one of your tires becomes deflated while you are away from home. A battery operated inflator will be easy to use.
  • Consider having a spare battery and spare tires that fit the device. If you have a spare battery you will not be left stranded if your battery stops working
  • Always use distilled water to refill batteries that require water
  • Always be careful when you use the chair around small children. You do not want a child to accidentally be injured by your chair, and you do not want them to get their hands caught in wheels, or between the chair and another object of furniture.
  • Always power the chair off before you transfer out of it so you cannot accidentally hit the controls and cause the chair to move out from under you

Be safe when you are using your mobility device, and practice using the device in different situations while you have someone close by that can assist you. These practice sessions will make your excursions away from home safer, and more enjoyable.

Thanks for reading my how to use a wheelchair guide. If you have any advice please share with us using the comment module below. ​

Dennis P. Baughman

Dennis P. Baughman is the Editor of UnbeatenRolling. His disabilities couldn't stop him to be self driven person. He started this blog to share his personal knowledge about all kinds of wheelchairs and different tips and advice about chairs.

Click Here to Leave a Comment Below 0 comments

Leave a Reply: