How To Use A Wheelchair – Complete Guide For Wheelchair Users In 2023

Written By Cardiologist
How To Use A Wheelchair – Complete Guide For Wheelchair Users In 2023

How to use a wheelchair?

A wheelchair is a piece of mobility equipment that helps people with physical disabilities or injuries move from place to place more easily. There are many different kinds, each with its uses and benefits for wheelchair users.

If you use a wheelchair regularly due to illness, injury, or other physical limitations, you may wonder how to use it safely and effectively.

While using a wheelchair can seem challenging, most people who have difficulty walking get used to using one reasonably quickly.

Using a wheelchair correctly can make your life much easier and reduce your risk of further injury or pain.

What You Should Know About Using A Wheelchair

Before using a wheelchair, one must understand its parts and how they work. Here’s what you need to know:

  • Wheelchairs come in many shapes and sizes, and you can choose from various types and styles according to your needs. For example, you can select from manual wheelchairs, power wheelchairs, and specialty wheelchairs, such as pediatric wheelchairs and bariatric wheelchairs.
  • Wheelchairs are designed for indoor use only. They are not suitable for outdoor or outdoor-related activities.
  • They are not a cure for any illness or injury. They are a tool that can help you perform daily activities more efficiently.
  • Wheelchairs are not recommended for people who can walk without assistance. Using a wheelchair when you can walk alone may reinforce poor posture and muscle weakness in your legs.

How To Use A Wheelchair?

Helpful Tip: Never forget to lock the wheels before sitting and standing from the chair

Sitting In And Positioning Yourself In Your Wheelchair

Before maneuvering your wheelchair, you need to sit in it and position your body correctly.

Place the seat of your wheelchair at a height that allows your feet to reach the floor before sitting in it.

Then, place your back against the backrest and your hands on your lap. You can also place your hands on the armrests.

Sitting In And Positioning Yourself In Your Wheelchair.

Next, scoot towards the edge of the wheelchair seat. If you raise your foot slightly, you can place the footrests on the ground.

The next step is to push yourself up with your legs and position your body most comfortably.

The most important thing to remember when positioning yourself in a wheelchair is to keep your back as straight as possible.

Avoid slouching and sitting up too straight, as this can cause discomfort.


Using The Wheels And Tires Of Your Wheelchair

The right wheel and tire on your wheelchair are the first part of your device you’ll use when getting around.

Using The Wheels And Tires Of Your Wheelchair

Essential things to keep in mind when using your wheelchair wheels include the following:

  • Always keep your wheelchair tires inflated. Doing so will increase your control over your wheelchair and reduce the risk of a flat tire.
  • If you use a manual wheelchair, you can control your speed by applying more or less pressure to the wheels.
  • When moving your wheelchair, push from a straight angle. Sudden changes in direction can cause you to lose control of your wheelchair.
  • Avoid riding on rough surfaces such as gravel or sand, as these can cause damage to the tire treads and reduce your wheelchair’s lifespan.

Using the brakes on your wheelchair

Like the tires, the brakes on your standard wheelchair are a vital part of your mobility device, and they play a crucial role in keeping you safe and maintaining control over your wheelchair. You can activate your wheelchair brakes in one of two ways:

Foot-activated: You can apply this brake by pressing your foot against the footrest on most wheelchairs.
Hand-activated brake is often found on specialty wheelchairs designed for people with limited mobility. You can activate it by squeezing your thumb against one side of the joystick and your fingers against the other.

Before you depart on any trip using your wheelchair, make sure you know where your wheelchair’s brakes are. You should also test them to make sure they’re working correctly. If a brake isn’t working properly, get it inspected by a qualified technician.

Going Up And Down Ramps

When you need to go up or down a ramp, it’s essential to consider your specific standard wheelchair. Some wheelchairs can be lifted and down ramps, while others cannot.

Going Up And Down Ramps

It is necessary to build a wheelchair ramp if your wheelchair cannot be lifted. Wheelchair ramps come in two main types:

The wheelchair platform ramp can be used as a portable or permanent ramp. Lifting your wheelchair onto the ramp is necessary when using a wheelchair platform ramp.
Wheelchair lift: A wheelchair lift allows you to drive directly onto the lift without lifting your wheelchair.

Using A Wheelchair Ramp

People with mobility issues can easily climb uneven or steep surfaces with wheelchair ramps. Ramps come in a variety of types, from portable to permanent.

Ramp type: Before you select a ramp for your home or business, make sure it’s a wheelchair ramp. Otherwise, it won’t be helpful for you.
Wheelchair ramp dimensions: Ensure the ramp you select is the correct dimensions for your wheelchair.
Ramp incline: Make sure the incline of your ramp is not too steep. A steep incline could make your wheelchair unstable and challenging to control.

Using A Wheelchair Lock

The purpose of a wheelchair lock is to keep your mobility device stationary. There are many types of wheelchair locks, including foot and hand brakes.

Using A Wheelchair Lock

Here are some important facts to note when using a wheelchair lock:

  • Permanently remove the wheelchair lock before you get out of your wheelchair. Otherwise, you could injure yourself.
  • Use the wheelchair lock to keep your mobility device in place when it’s crowded, and this will help you avoid running into people or things with your wheelchair.
  • Test your wheelchair lock regularly to make sure it’s working correctly.
  • Use the wheelchair lock only when necessary. The rest of the time, practicing good mobility techniques is essential.

Using Footrests While Sitting In A Wheelchair

Footrests are essential equipment that many people with disabilities or injuries use while sitting in a wheelchair.

  • They are designed to help you reposition your legs while sitting in a wheelchair. Here’s what you need to know about using footrests:
  • Footrests help relieve pressure and distribute weight evenly across your feet, legs, and back.
  • Wheelchair footrests come in many different designs and sizes. Make sure the footrests you choose are the right size for your feet.
  • You can adjust the footrests on your wheelchair for optimum comfort.
  • When you’re wearing shoes, it’s a good idea to place a towel or small piece of cloth between your shoe and the footrest to prevent them from getting stained.

Wheelchair Handling And Mobility Techniques

Before you leave the house in your wheelchair, it’s a good idea to practice wheelchair handling and mobility techniques.

This will help you become more comfortable and proficient at maneuvering your mobility device. Here are things you can do to improve your wheelchair-handling abilities:

Wheelchair Handling And Mobility Techniques

Practice moving your wheelchair forward, backward, and side-to-side. Make sure to use proper posture and body positioning while you’re doing so.

Learn to use your footrests. Doing so will help you reposition your feet and legs while sitting in your wheelchair.

Practice using your wheelchair brakes and hand controls. Making sure you’re comfortable and familiar with these mobile device parts will help you feel confident when driving your wheelchair.


There are various things to remember when navigating turns while using a wheelchair.

First, you’ll want to ensure that you have enough space to turn around without hitting anything. If you’re in a tight area, you may need to back up a bit before turning.

Second, you’ll want to go slowly and carefully so you don’t lose control of your wheelchair.

Finally, if you’re going up or down a ramp, be careful not to go too fast, as this could cause you to lose control.

Final Consideration:

The use of a wheelchair requires some consideration:

  • Select the right wheelchair size. A too-small wheelchair will be uncomfortable, and a too-large one may be difficult to maneuver.
  • Be sure to adjust the seat so you sit straight with your feet flat on the footrests.
  • If possible, try to push the wheelchair yourself rather than relying on someone else to do it for you. This will help you build up your arm and shoulder muscles.
  • When going up or down a ramp, go slowly and carefully.
  • If you need to turn the wheelchair, use your arms to push down the handrails, which will help you keep your balance.
  • Always be aware of your surroundings and try to avoid obstacles.
Tiny Nair

Article by

Tiny Nair, MD, DM, FACC, FRCP, is a cardiologist and head of Dept of Cardiology at PRS Hospital in Trivandrum. He is also an author, fluent in Middle English and offers consultations on finding the best wheelchair according to individual needs.