Challenges of Wheelchair Users - An Awareness Post


Wheelchair users already have it tough enough being in a wheelchair, and the challenges they face on a daily basis makes it all the more difficult for them. As able-bodied people, we can sometimes be completely oblivious to the hardships that wheelchair users have to endure. If you have a loved one or know someone on a wheelchair, it’s always a great idea to be aware of the possible challenges they face, and to be prepared for them. Here are some common challenges that wheelchair users face, that we should all be aware about:


1. Uneven or Rough terrain

Easily the most common and basic problem for wheelchair users. Uneven and rough grounds make it extremely difficult to maneuver a wheelchair, especially if it is a manual one. Powered wheelchairs these days come with more torque and stabilizing systems that help, but it still is difficult nonetheless. If you come across a wheelchair user stuck or struggling while on the move, try to reach out and offer assistance. Some users may be new and don’t know their way around a wheelchair yet. 


2. Stairs and Steps

It’s great that in this time and age, a lot of places that have steps and stairs also have ramps for wheelchairs, but you will be surprised with the number of places that DON’T have an access that is usable for wheelchairs. It can be very frustrating and embarrassing for a wheelchair user to not be able to access an outlet because of something as simple as a missing ramp. There is a lot of effort in utilizing technology to help the disabled, but really what they need is MORE RAMPS!


3. Public Transportation

The transportation itself isn’t usually the problem, it’s getting on and off it that is the challenge. If you have never experienced seeing a wheelchair user get on and off a public transportation vehicle, this will be good to know. The process of getting on and off and vehicle that is not customized for wheelchairs takes time. There will be help from the conductor or driver to set up a platform or ramp, and the wheelchair user will be assisted on or off the vehicle. The ramp will then be pulled back up and stowed away. Sure it sounds simple enough, but when the usual getting in and out that takes a couple of seconds becomes a couple of minutes long, people can get impatient, and yup as you guessed it, impatient people make wheelchair users feel embarrassed because nobody wants to be the cause of a delay right? So it’s important to be supportive and understand that disabled people have it hard, and a little kindness goes a long way. 


4. Smaller Corridors or Doorways

Not only do some older buildings not have ramps or wheelchair accessibility, they also have narrow corridors. A double whammy for wheelchair users. It doesn’t stop there, there is also a good chance that even the bathrooms are not wheelchair-friendly. If you plan to go somewhere with a wheelchair bound person, be sure to take this into account. 


5. Nothing is Ergonomic

Everything built in this world is designed for the mass market - able-bodied people. Wheelchair users may find a lot of things we use on a daily basis to be challenging such as tables for work or meals, switches around the house, elevator buttons, household appliances such as the stove, shower, etc. Even looking in the mirror becomes a challenge. If you live with a wheelchair user, there are adaptations you can make around your home. Here are some ideas.


6. Muscle Cramps and Soreness

It is unnatural for a person to sit for long hours at a time, and wheelchair users don’t have a choice but to do so. It takes a lot of mental strength to be able to go through life on a wheelchair, and it’s especially hard for new users. For more severe cases, a better wheelchair option would be a standing wheelchair. Standing wheelchairs are slowly becoming more popular, and although they are a bit pricey, there are ways to finance the wheelchair.