Navigating Winter Weather

Tips on How to Stay Safe During Winter Weather Conditions


Old man winter has held a firm grip on much of the world this year. Many places in the United States and abroad have seen blistering cold temperatures and record snowfall. And earlier this month, the groundhog saw no signs of an early spring.

Winter weather and wheelchairs can be a bad combination. Salt can be one of the biggest contributors to wheelchair damage, according to Dave Mahilo, Invacare's Director of Corporate Reliability.

“Try to clear off of your wheelchair any packed in snow around the motors/frames,” he said. “Check your electrical connections to make sure they aren't corroded from salt and they still make solid contact.”

Mahilo also provided The Mobility Project with a number of other tips on how to best ensure you and your wheelchair stay safe in winter weather conditions:

  • Check your owner’s manual—Follow all warnings and maintenance guidelines.
  • Be smart about your environment—This means dress properly, slow down while driving outside in slippery conditions, avoid deep snow (probably more than 2 inches) and carry emergency items such as flashlight, cell phone, etc.
  • Do a visual inspection—Check your wheelchair for typical wear items such as: tire pressure (if applicable), loose bolts, lubricating any pivot points that require them, checking tire treads (deeper the better) and check your wheel lock adjustment if adequate.
  • Check your components—Extreme cold weather can impact certain components so you should check any plastic components for cracks, check any components with seals (look for any leakage of grease or oil residue) and make sure batteries are fully charged with no cracks or expansion stress marks.

For folks with limited mobility, icy walkways can be extremely treacherous, thus the need to take extra precautions.

Snowy conditions often lead to an increase in fractures, sprains and other orthopaedic injuries, according to experts from Northwestern Medicine in Illinois. Michael D. Stover, MD, an orthopaedic surgeon at Northwestern Memorial Hospital and professor of orthopaedic surgery at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine says that navigating slippery surfaces is one of the most common culprits of winter weather injuries.

"We see a definite an increase in injuries, including fractures, which are breaks in the bone, resulting from slips and falls or accidents involving motor vehicles during harsh weather conditions," he said in a news announcement.

According to Stover, the following steps can reduce the risk of a fall and injury during winter:

  • Wear proper footwear –Wear winter boots with good traction and avoid shoes with smooth, slippery bottoms.
  • Slow down – When there is bad weather, take extra time to get between destinations. Avoid running for buses, or trying to beat traffic when crossing a street. 
  • Brace yourself – When entering and exiting a vehicle, support yourself before standing and use the car door for stability.
  • Go hands free –Your arms help you balance, so avoid heavy purses, coffee, or holding your phone out in front of you while walking on icy or snow-covered surfaces.
  • Walk with caution –Take small, cautious steps and stay low to the ground walking with curled toes and a flat foot.

About the Author

Cindy Horbrook is the associate editor for HME Business, Mobility Management, and Respiratory & Sleep Management magazines.