On Folding the Wheelchair

It could be to your friend, flight attendant, bus driver, or even a family member - but we've all done it, and done it MANY times: Explain how to fold the wheelchair. I have had manual wheelchairs that stay rigid and don't fold, wheelchairs that fold, and have even seen electric wheelchairs that collapse. It's a part of our lives and while we do it as automatically as someone else ties their shoes, to explain it to someone else can sometimes require the patience when teaching a 5 year old how to tie shoes for the first time.

This post won't go over specific details of how to collapse any wheelchair but instead give tips on giving directions to otherwise "clueless" folks who might not know the handlebars from the brakes.

Giving directions for medical equipment:

  • A few times I have been out with friends and needed a ride home late in the evening. Giving directions to someone who hasn't folded a wheelchair before, and never mind in the dark, can be quite the hassle. If this happens it might help to turn on all the lights on in the car and try to position the wheelchair as close to the passenger seat as possible so that everyone can see what they are doing!
  • Be patient. The individual is probably nervous about making sure s/he doesn't break anything and is probably aware of how expensive the piece of equipment is. 
  • Think about it from their perspective! Imagine you are the one standing over the wheelchair and tell the directions from that point of view "so to your left there will be a switch that kind of looks like a fishing hook..." as opposed to "look for the switch, it's somewhere no the left."
  • I have always found it helpful that my friends and family first make sure the seat belt is untangled from the wheelchair frame. Safety is key and should always be your first consideration!
  • Take into consideration the size of the car or trunk that the wheelchair will be placed in. If necessary, do some planning in advance. Sometimes I have needed to take the foot pedals off of my wheelchair or with other trunks the tires have had to be popped off. 
  • Don't use language from the instructions manual. Not everyone may understand the jargon from a manual so use language that is easily accessible and quickly understood - especially if you are writing directions for a flight attendant. Words like "seat is velcro and can be detached" as opposed to "remove adhesive from seat to collapse frame." 
  • After you are placed into the wheelchair make sure everything "feels" right. It's important that wheels are not suddenly loose, or that the seat isn't securely fastened in. If something seems awry just calmly help the person figure out what seems to be amiss, but do so from a safe place! Fixing a loose tire while you're in the chair might not be the greatest idea. 

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One Response to On Folding the Wheelchair

  1. I love it when strangers take my chair and literally shake it, trying to get to fold. It usually goes something like this:

    Stranger: "how do you fold this thing?" Me: "It's rigid."
    Stranger: "It's what?"
    Me: "Uh. It doesn't fold."

    My wheels are supposed to come off but since I went swimming in the ocean in my chair a few years ago, they haven't budged. I guess the salt water has corroded them together with the metal, lol. Trust me. We have tried EVERYTHING to get them to come off and nothing has worked! So, the only thing that comes off now are my tippers.


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