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Elderly man in wheelchair with daughter

5 Common Problems Faced by Wheelchair Users and How You Can Help

There’s no denying that life in a wheelchair can be challenging. Friends, family members, and caregivers of individuals who use wheelchairs see many of these struggles first-hand, yet other wheelchair problems are often ignored or go unnoticed. In this article, we’re looking at common barriers for wheelchair users that you might not have thought about and how you can help a loved one with wheelchair user difficulties.

1. Difficulty Using Public and Personal Transportation

Traveling and simply running errands around town can feel like a nightmare to a new wheelchair user. Transportation-related wheelchair problems include getting on and off public buses and trains, accessing multiple levels of a transit station, and getting into and out of a personal vehicle. While vehicle transfer seats can help eliminate transportation barriers for wheelchair users, many cities’ public transportation systems are in desperate need of accessibility improvements.

2. Hand Injuries from Wheeling

Wheelchair users rely on their hands to get them around, which can lead to overuse injuries, repetitive strains, blisters, abrasions, carpal tunnel syndrome, and rotator cuff injuries. Strength and flexibility exercises can help prevent many of these issues when practiced carefully and under the guidance of a medical professional.

3. Being Unable to Reach Household Items

Reaching items around the house, as well as in retail stores, is also one of the most common wheelchair user difficulties. Therefore, it may be necessary to redesign a wheelchair user’s kitchen and bathroom to make cupboards, shelves, and appliances easier and safer to access.

4. Health Effects of Prolonged Sitting

We often hear about the negative health effects of sitting all day long for office workers, but many wheelchair users have no other option but to remain seated. The health risks of prolonged sitting include obesity, cardiovascular disease, and an increased risk of diabetes. This is another reason why exercise is so important for people in wheelchairs, as well as healthy nutrition centered on fresh fruits and vegetables.

5. Societal Attitudes Towards Wheelchair Users

However, one of the biggest wheelchair problems that exists has nothing to do with physical limitations at all. Unfortunately, society has a tendency to not see wheelchair users as equals and valuable members of society. It is unfair to talk down to or ignore wheelchair users simply because of their condition, but sadly, this is an issue that elderly and disabled individuals have to deal with on a daily basis.

How to Help with a Loved Ones Wheelchair Problems

The first thing that you can do for a loved one in a wheelchair is to be compassionate, respectful, and accommodating. Your loved one may not express all of these wheelchair problems to you, so you may need to “read between the lines” and try to interpret his or her frustrations and attitudes towards daily activities. Modern technology has made using a wheelchair more accommodating than ever before, but there are still significant barriers to overcome. Listen to your loved one and take practical steps to tackle wheelchair problems together to achieve safety, independence, and confidence.