Wheelchairs and snow

Wheelchairs and snow are two things that typically don’t work well together. Well, the snow does fine. It’s the person in the wheelchair who is in peril. Certainly some specialized wheelchairs have been invented that can handle snow, but the average user is quite vulnerable once there is snow on the ground. Front wheels tend to sink in the snow and get stuck. If the ground is uneven, there is the risk of tipping. And of course, icy inclines can lead to sliding and tipping. Falling over when you are unable to protect yourself is terrifying, as you may well know, or can imagine.

Able bodied people crossing a snow covered major intersection in Vancouver, BC.
This looks like a bad place to get stuck, which is likely to happen if you tried to drive your wheelchair across this street.

There is a neat looking invention called Wheelblades, created by a wheelchair user in Germany who struggled through the winters there. Wheelblades are small, modified skis that attach under the front wheels of wheelchairs. We’ve never tried them, but if you live in place where snow comes every winter, it might be helpful.

Vancouver isn’t the place with a winter full of snow – in our winters, snow usually comes briefly, if at all. Protecting yourself from the rain is key here. A waterproof cover for the control box, rain gear and safety gear for visibility are common. So when snow does come to Vancouver, it’s usually extra challenging for people dependent on a wheelchair to get around. If paths aren’t cleared of snow right to the door, wheelchair uses are forced to stay home. It’s something to think about in new developments that include ‘accessible housing’. How will your tenants access the outside world if they can’t travel outside?

Two able bodied people squeeze past each other on a very narrow path where there used to be a sidewalk, now covered in snow.
This sidewalk is not wheelchair accessible.
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