Using a Wheelchair Part‐time is a Full‐time Job

Published: Jan 22, 2019

Dear part‐time wheelchair users: occasional / part‐time chair use is a full‐time job. Muscle memory is one of the most critical skills when it comes to chair use: when you’re in enough pain or discomfort to need your chair, your muscle memory is what is going to carry you through those moments safely.

This means that, when you don’t need to use the chair, you need to take the time to use the chair. Pain is no time for practice. You need be using the chair when you don’t actually need it because that’s what’s going to get you through the really hard days.

I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve encountered someone in a wheelchair or scooter absolutely struggling to board the bus—multiple times. I see them roughly once a month and they struggle in the same ways each time. Why do the struggle? Because they only use that chair or scooter during this once a month trip. They’re not spending the time it takes to develop the skills they need to make these vital trips easier on themselves and everyone waiting on the bus.

If you are not practicing your part‐time chair skills on a full‐time basis, you are doing yourself a genuine disservice and putting yourself at risk for injury. The time for improving your wheelchair skills is not when you’re in pain and trying to power your way through a grocery trip.

Are you struggling to navigate tight spaces? Set up an obstacle course in your living room or driveway. Having trouble getting up the bus ramp? Find a comparable incline and practice going up it every day. Getting in your chair should not feel like entering a foreign land. It should feel like putting on a different but well‐worn pair of shoes.