What Safety Gear Do You Recommend for a Manual Wheelchair?

Sep 21, 2019

Anonymous asks, quote:

Hi! I’m getting a manual wheelchair soon and I’m looking for some recommendations about lights and safety reflectors. Winters where I live are very dark and I want to be seen clearly. What types are good and where do I put them on the chair for maximum visibility?

end quote.

Good news! You’re basically a bicycle! This means that you have a lot of options available to you when it comes to picking out safety equipment for your chair.

You definitely want to choose something that, while keeping you safe, doesn’t get in the way of the chair and doesn’t look absolutely ridiculous when seen in broad daylight.

I break down safety stuff like this into two categories: active and passive. Passive safety equipment is stuff that doesn't emit its own light or sound and instead relies upon another light source like the headlights of a car in order to make you more visible. This category includes stuff like spoke reflectors , reflective tape, and reflective bands. These are good because they're lighter, easier to install/use, and don’t need to be charged like a lot of the active options. However, because they don’t emit their own light, you’ll need to depend on external light sources (like the headlights of a car about to hit you) in order to actually work.

Active options include stuff like wheel lights, tail lights, and lamps. While things like this do take more effort to install and will need to be maintained more often than passive safey options, they do offer the benefit of not requiring external light sources in order to keep you safe.

I recommend a combination of both passive and active safety measures. Because your chair’s frame is about the same diameter as a bicycle frame, a lot of different styles of lamps and lights can be easily attached and detached from your chair. Wheel lights would make you super visible (and they would look pretty cool), but I would make sure that they aren’t so bright that they make it hard to see out in front of you. Unlike a rider on a bike, you’re going to be a lot closer to your wheels and there’s a chance that the bright lights could wash out the road in front of you at night. Instead, I would get a simple, bright LED and attach it to either the back of the chair or directly to your clothing.