A Manual Wheelchair User’s Guide to Carrying an Open Beverage

Published: Sep 15, 2019

As handy as a sealed travel mug is, it’s not going to work for every situation. After all, it’s hard to convince the bartender to put your beer in a to‐go cup. If you’re in a situation where you have to carry an open drink and push your chair, here are a few tips to make it a mess‐free event.

Don’t Put it In Your Lap

As tempting as it may be to just squeeze your drink between your thighs and carry it that way, don’t do it. Not only do you risk crushing the cup, you also won’t have any control over the way the liquid inside moves while you push and it’ll be impossible to keep your seat pad from getting wet if you do spill.

Use the Right Glass

If you’re ordering a cocktail or other beverage that is traditionally served “up” in a martini glass, order it in a rocks glass instead. Not only will this be easier to carry, but it’ll give you a little extra room at the top so there’s less chance of the drink spilling over.

Ask for Room

If you’re ordering a hot beverage like a coffee, ask that it be made “with room”. The barista will make sure to leave a little extra space at the top for things like cream, but you can also use this space to make it easier for you to carry. I once had a barista confusedly ask his coworker “who orders a chai latte with room?” I chimed in with “The who doesn’t want it spilling into his crotch on the way back to his desk.”

Take a Sip

A lot of places, especially bars, fill their glasses to the very top when someone orders a drink. When you first receive your drink, take a sip or two to give yourself a little slosh room when moving around.

Carry it Correctly

This is really the most important bit. When most folks carry a drink, they hold it at about the middle of their chest. This makes it easy to raise the glass and take a drink without too much arm movement. For wheelchair folks, this position doesn’t work with how are bodies move: we shift our arms and core too much to keep the drink stable.

Instead of carrying it near your chest, keep the drink in your dominant hand and keep your forearm parallel with your wheel as you move. This will even out the way the motion of your body and chair affect the drink and will keep it from sloshing around too much. If you need to push or pivot, you can lean that forearm onto the wheel.