Navigating the wheelchair life

Families with children in wheelchairs are thought to be courageous folks. While the cards dealt were not initially in the “we are having a baby” excitement tool belt, families quickly learn to roll with the punches and become educated in all things accessibility.


Nevertheless, just like any other family, families with kids in wheelchairs want fun days out of the house and even, occasional dinners out. The truth is, navigating a world that is not necessarily designed for wheelchair living can be difficult. It’s a family effort.

The best way to approach the wheelchair life as a family is to change your perspective. Instead of thinking about the things that cannot be done, consider how it can be made accessible or at least easier and efficient.


Sometimes it requires rolling up your sleeves, but if everyone works together, those adventures are fun and those dining experiences are stress free. Hopefully these tips help make you even more courageous than before.


Navigating the great outdoors


We all know summer is a fun time, but when your child is in a wheelchair, sometimes they can’t just run away from insects or jump out of the sun to find a shaded area. Here are a couple items I’ve found that can help:


Clip-on battery operated fan: This is great for beating the heat and keeping bugs away.


Clamp-on umbrella: Keeps your child fully shaded and dry from rain.


Cup holders: This is not only great for your child but also for the person pushing the wheelchair. Remember, it’s a family effort.


Caddy: Caddies are great to attach to the wheelchair because it provides a place for a caregiver’s personal items and items the child may need.


Cup leash: Things happen. The cup leash will make it easier for children to pick up their cup if it falls. It simply is attached to the cup and you attach it to the wheelchair.


Navigating rough terrain


Whether it is camping or a paved trail, kids in a wheelchair and parents need to be prepared. These items are great to have for those “uh-oh” moments.


Zip ties: Add heavy duty zip ties to the wheelchair wheels to add traction.


Small tool kit: Things happen during the most obscure times. Keep a small compact tool kit with adequate tools needed to adjust the wheelchair.


Navigating restaurants


Dining out can feel overwhelming. However, I created a system to help my family make sure the accommodations are suitable for the wheelchair and all members of the family.


We use the acronym A.S.K.


Assess the space: Make a phone call before your arrival and ASK if the space is wheelchair accessible. If so, upon arrival and before unloading, head into the restaurant and ASK if you can take a quick look around to determine if the space is adequate enough for your family.


Secure the position: Once you have scoped an area that you feel is most suitable for your family ASK if you can be seated in that area. This is important because you want to make sure the entire family is comfortable.


Keep it in the family: Designate a role for each of your family members to make transitions smoother. ASK who would like to be responsible for what designated roles, such as pushing, opening the door, etc.


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