How Do I Write a Stealthy Disabled Character That Uses a Wheelchair?

Jul 06, 2018

Anonymous asks, quote:

I have a character in one of my stories that uses a wheelchair. He spends a lot of time sneaking around guarded complexes on rescue missions/spying. But, how quiet are wheelchairs? I can imagine the wheels might make noise where they have contact with the ground, but I don’t know the extent of it. I was also curious to what kind of fancy maneuvers can be done in a manual wheelchair that an able‐bodied person like me wouldn’t know about. And I was also wondering how much force it takes to move a standard chair. I tried looking it up, but all I got were physics formulas and physics is NOT my forte.

end quote.

I have no clue about the exact force and physics but I can tell you from experience that it takes a very, very subtle incline to move a chair across a room without touching the wheels, even with someone in the chair.

The main wheels are actually fairly quiet if they’re inflated properly. Not silent, but quiet enough that you wouldn’t notice it if you weren’t familiar with the sound.

The most direct chair noise would come from the front casters. Any dirt, dust, or wear inside the bearings makes a subtle grinding noise you can hear if it’s quiet enough.

Most other noises come from the chair user themselves. Your spy would never wear rings (decoder or otherwise) since they would hit the rim when he pushed and make a sound.

The chair would be designed to fit them like a glove. I’m talking less than a few millimeters of clearance between their body and the side guards.

Their clothes would be skin tight. They’d have to basically be wearing a wetsuit or some tactical equivalent. There needs to be absolutely chance of clothes catching or dragging on the wheels. This also means no pockets and short sleeves.

The fabric around the seat and back would need to be either extremely rigid and molded perfectly to their body or made of some kind of crazy material that makes no noise when the person sitting on / in it shifts their weight.

All moving parts would have to be crazy light and crazy lubricated in order to reduce friction and noise.

They would need to be strapped into the chair so that the entire thing moves with their body as a single unit. No dangling limbs allowed.

Okay, cool shit you can do in a chair: