Winter safety for wheelchair and scooter users

I read an article yesterday about a fairly young man found on the ground in his driveway between his wheelchair and his car. He was a fairly healthy man who played sports likely was in pretty good shape in spite of his inability to walk. It appears he spent the night there and the wind chill was approaching -40 degrees. He did not survive.

I guess there was a power failure in his neighbourhood and one neighbour speculated that he might have been trying to get in his car for warmth.

As far as I know no one has actually determined what occurred to put this fellow into the situation but it did remind me of warning I used to give my customers when I worked for a wheelchair dealer.

Wheelchairs, power or manual, and scooters are vehicles that suffer the same problems as other vehicles. They get stuck in snow and ice and they break down. The big difference is that when they break down or get stuck the user is stranded and exposed to the weather.

A number of years ago one of my customers with quadriplegia left his home alone late in the evening and got his power wheelchair stuck in the snow. He ended up spending the night in his wheelchair in his backyard while his family members were asleep in the house. I don’t remember how cold it was but -20 seems to stick in my mind. He did not survive.

Incidents such as these are not very common but they do happen. People who are not able to get around without their mobility device should be taking extra precautions in winter weather to prevent these types of accidents.

The simplest thing is to carry a cell phone when out of the house. Even when home alone having a cell phone or portable phone on your person allows you to get help if needed due to a wheelchair problem.

Another thing that may help you avoid a dangerous situation is to let someone know when going out alone where you are going and when you will return. My wife and I live in a small village and while being able to walk in case of vehicle breakdowns we always let each know where we are going and when we will be back. If no one knows where you are going, no one will be looking for you if you disappear.

If you haven’t got a cell phone and there’s no one who you can tell where you are going, you should avoid venturing into areas where there aren’t other people around that can provide assistance.

I know the purpose of a mobility device is to provide independence for the user but some basic safety precautions are required to maintain one’s continued independence and personal safety.