Cripple Survival Skills: Pop a Wheelie

Published: Oct 18, 2017

As a wheelchair user, you’re going to encounter the following situations:

  • There’s a large object in your path that you can’t go around or easily pass over.
  • The curb cut on the side of the street your headed to is either blocked, damaged, or non‐existent.

In order to overcome these problems, you’ll need to lift the front of your chair off the ground.

This means you’ll need to remove those anti‐tip casters (AKA wheelie‐bars) from the back of your chair. Honestly, they do nothing but hinder your ability to overcome obstacles and catch on shit more than they keep your chair from actually tipping over. If your chair tips over too easily, you need to:

  1. Remove the 20lbs of stuff you have hanging off the back.
  2. Adjust the center of gravity of your chair so that it doesn’t tip so easily.

The first step in being able to lift the front of your chair is to lift the front of your chair in a safe and controlled environment. Feel free to grab a friend who’s willing to spot you if it makes you feel safer.

From there, throw something on the ground you want to get your chair over and practice timing the lift of your chair so that your front wheels go up before your chair goes over the object and only come down once your chair is past the object.

Practice doing this at speed. This means, moving as fast as you can in your chair. The reason for this is two fold:

  1. You never know when you’ll need to lift the front of your chair so you need to be able to do it at a moment’s notice.
  2. The momentum of your chair is what helps you over large objects and things like curbs without getting stuck. Lifting your chair over a curb and then trying to push up it at a stand‐still is nearly impossible. You need the momentum to carry you over the curb.

Keep practicing this until it feels natural. How long that takes and how skilled you get at maneuvering your chair on two wheels depends a lot on how often you practice and what your disability happens to be. I have CP so my balance is awful and I can really only raise my chair enough to jump up small curbs or over obstacles on the ground. Paraplegics can do crazy shit like jump down stairs or large drops.

Either way, regardless of your type of physical disability, being able to lift the front of your chair is a super important skill.