Summer is finally here! As the weather begins to warm, many of us are looking forward to spending time outdoors with friends and family, leisurely relaxing, and enjoying all the other activities that accompany the occasion. Whether you are celebrating the sun, participating in local and regional festivities, or even going about daily activities, it is always important to be safe and remain aware of potential risks or challenges associated with the summer. At Strongback Mobility, your comfort and care continue to be our highest priority. Below, check out our tips for users hoping to make the most out of this season:
Consider Wheelchair-Friendly Paths, Trails, and Ramps
If you are someone who enjoys nature and getting outside, be careful of obstacles like sand or deep puddles that may either prove hazardous or difficult to traverse. Hot sand can burn sensitive skin, while wet sand can stick and become abrasive or uncomfortable. If sand is unavoidable, consider wearing gloves to increase grip and protect fingers and palms. Puddles and wet or slippery paths can reduce braking efficiency, soak cushions, and cause rust. To counteract difficult terrain and potential discomfort, it may be helpful to adapt handling to the existing conditions and dry cushions fully, making sure not to store them when wet.
When using ramps or exploring trails, also be on the lookout for debris accumulation. While mud, dirt, and wet leaves can cause ramps to become slippery or lose traction, large branches and foliage can also be a major obstacle. Keep your ramp clean with a hose if possible, and alert businesses or establishments if their ramp might prove to be a future risk. If you are looking to enjoy natural paths, consult online resources such as AllTrails or TrailLink for highly rated and reviewed accessible trails in your area.
Cleaning and Maintenance
Just as cleaning and maintaining regularly used pathways is important, so is cleaning and maintaining your STRONGBACK wheelchair! All moveable parts should be serviced periodically to ensure that your wheelchair is working properly and can be used safely. Beyond periodic servicing appointments, you should also check your wheelchair frequently. If you notice any defects or have any concerns, make sure to immediately have it repaired by a qualified wheelchair technician. When having your wheelchair repaired, only use original parts and accessories approved by STRONGBACK. Should you be interested in any wheelchair modifications during the summer, do not attempt to perform modifications yourself—as this can potentially harm the functionality of the wheelchair and become a safety risk.
Use Caution When Traveling and Transferring
Whether you are traveling newfound trails, playing games with family and friends, or appreciating the refreshing inactivity of hanging out at home, tipping can be an ever-present concern. Similarly, transferring to and from your wheelchair also presents a fresh set of safety concerns. While STRONGBACK wheelchairs’ user-centered designs intentionally and effectively support functionality and stability, anti-tip wheels are also recommended—particularly when traveling on steep slopes (more than 12% or 7°). Should you use or add additional cushions or other sitting aids, remain cognizant of weight distribution or shifting that could potentially cause instability. Although STRONGBACK wheelchairs maneuver with ease indoors and outdoors across a multitude of terrains, poor quality paths and abrupt drops naturally can still present user concerns. For this reason, you are encouraged to avoid difficult road conditions, such as coarse gravel and potholes, and major dips (curbs, steps).
With STRONGBACK’s lightweight and easily compactable design, transport and travel are both made easier and more manageable. Their foldability makes STRONGBACK wheelchairs easy to store in the trunk or luggage compartment of your vehicle, which also minimizes the risk of damage during transition. Because our wheelchairs are not meant to be used as an alternative to a car seat, you should always transfer to a seat intended for vehicle travel—taking care to get as close to the seat as possible and remembering to move footrests out of the way if necessary.
While summer days in the sun can be wonderfully relaxing, it’s also important to remember sunscreen and stay protected from harmful UV rays that can burn exposed skin. When you are planning on spending time outdoors and in direct sunlight, apply sunscreen at least 30 minutes in advance to allow it to bind to your skin. Always try to cover your face, ears, neck, arms, and legs fully for the best protection. If you will be outside without a shirt on, make sure to cover your back and chest as well. After the initial application, be sure to reapply every two hours—especially after swimming or excessive sweating!
Stay Cool and Hydrated
Beyond sunscreen, which protects your skin, there are other healthy options to avoid dehydration or other sun-associated safety risks. Wearing hats, light colored clothing, and SPF sun shirts can provide great additional protection and keep you cooler on the hottest summer days. As an added layer of protection, umbrellas can also provide shade, reduce concerns of overheating, and prevent wheelchairs from absorbing heat caused by direct sunlight. If you feel yourself growing weak or becoming dehydrated, seek shade and drink lots of water. It may also be helpful to sprinkle water on your skin and clothes while outside, and to take a cool bath or shower immediately after going inside. In extreme weather, avoid additional risk by bypassing alcohol or strenuous exercise.
Bring and Use Gloves
Even when hot sand or other debris isn’t present, gloves are almost an essential for wheelchair users during the summer. When spending longer stretches of time outdoors, materials can absorb heat and quickly become hot to the touch. Gloves offer an extra layer of protection for both manual wheelchair users and caregivers, who will be pushing the wheels and holding a chair’s grips respectively. For summer use, breathable gloves are a great option that prevent overheating and excessive sweating.
Author: Zach Smith
Strongback Mobility Lifestyle Writer