How do I Push My Wheelchair Up Inclines and Slants More Easily?

Anonymous asks, quote:

My front casters seem to have more resistance, so keeping weight off them is useful, but this conflicts with using upper body motion to push and sidewalks that are slanted sideways are my bane. Using upper body strength, then weight on front casters makes the effect of the slant worse. But I need the additional force to make up for the more difficult wheeling on those awful sidewalks. So I just die? Or does someone have advice for this?

end quote.

I would definitely make sure your casters are doing alright. Shifting your body weight to the front of the chair shouldn’t affect them that drastically. You might need to clean them out or replace the bearings.

You only need to lean forward when you’re going up inclines or just starting to get your chair up to speed. Once you’re moving at the correct pace, it should only take small consistent pushes to maintain speed. If that’s not the case, I would definitely take a look at your chair to make sure nothing is causing unnecessary drag. 

As for the slanted sidewalks (and by slanted I assume you mean the sidewalk leans left or right vs being on an incline), you use the hand farthest from the angle of the slant (if the sidewalk slants right then we’re talking about your left hand) and focus on using it to keep your chair pointed straight. Then, use your other hand to focus on pushing hard enough to keep the chair moving forward while resisting the pull of gravity. One arm is definitely going to be more tired than the other by the end of it. 

Now, if you were in fact talking about sidewalks that happen to be on a steep incline, the secret to getting up the hill is this:

Alternate the pushing of your wheels.

When you hit the incline, push one arm forward on its wheel while pulling the other arm backwards to prepare to push its wheel. 

Once the first arm has pushed all the way forward, start pulling it backwards while pushing the opposite arm’s wheel forward. Don’t lean into these pushes. You’re focus here is less on having a lot of power all at once and more on having a small, consistent amount of power over a longer period of time.

The key here is to always have your arms moving in opposite directions from one another so that your wheels never stop moving and your speed remains constant.

You’re going to be pushing a lot more, but you’re going to be avoiding the jerking loss of momentum that comes with just leaning into each push with both wheels as you go up the hill. You need to keep your arms moving as fast and as smoothly as possible. If you’re timing is off, your chair is going to fish‐tail up the hill which makes for a lot more expended energy.

One more thing (and I can’t emphasize this enough): cardio cardio cardio cardio cardio!

If you’re cardio is bad, this maneuver is gonna suck and you’re gonna feel like shit half‐way through. Make sure you’re doing your part to keep your heart healthy enough for this kind of stuff. It’s a really tough move, but you’d be amazed at just how quickly you can climb very steep hills with it.