How to Winterize Your Wheelchair

Jamie Sumner
Special needs mom and author
01/18/24  8:05 AM PST
Intermittent Catheters

Winter is upon us. The holidays are over. What’s left is the slog that makes it almost impossible to get out of bed in the morning and touch a warm toe to cold floor. But my son Charlie loves this time of year. He lives for the brutal (he’d call it brisk) wind and the hazardous (he’d call it adventurous) afternoon stroll in his wheelchair. He is a boy born to be outside, but if you’re a wheelchair-user that can make things tricky. Here are a few tips we have honed over the years to make it a touch more bearable (he’d call it brilliant).


  1. Dress in layers

Anyone in a manual wheelchair knows it’s crucial to keep your arms free for optimal movement and control. Winter makes this tough. That last thing you need is a marshmallow puffer jacket getting in your way on already difficult terrain. We’ve found that layers are the key. A good dry-wicking base layer plus sweater plus vest usually does the trick and if you get too warm, you can shed as you go. We also carry hand warmers as well – the kind you tear open and stuff in your pockets for when his hands in his fingerless gloves get chilly.


  1. Store extra tires

We always keep a second set of tires around. For winter, however, we have a set that are wider, softer, and with grips on the bottom for snow and ice. This keeps skidding to a minimum while also making it easier to roll.


  1. Stay visible

Winter is DARK. The wait for the morning bus can be grim when you feel like nothing more than a shadow in the pre-dawn gray. And when evening settles in by four p.m., you need to make sure you stay visible for cars and pedestrians. Charlie has a wool hat with a built-in LED light as well as clip on flashlights for his armrests and reflectors for his wheels. We want him visible from all angles.


  1. Keep the gear dry

If your wheelchair is automatic, then you know how crucial it is to keep the controls out of rain and wet snow. An easy hack, for winter is to stick a plastic bag over the joystick, but another nice addition is a bicyclist’s waterproof bag that can hang on the back of the chair for all your extra gear, like those layers you may or may not need in the temperamental temperatures.


  1. Check the batteries

Here’s another tip for automatic wheelchair users: check your batteries regularly, because they are working overtime. Both the cold and the extra horsepower used to trundle over the snow drain the power quicker than you would think.


  1. Keep your driveway and ramps clear

Most people remember to shovel and salt their driveway, but don’t forget the ramps! It’s not fun to face a sheet of ice first thing in the morning when you have places to go. Keep a bag of road salt handy and purchase a reliable snow shovel. Rubber mats can also offer extra grip.


Winter doesn’t have to mean you stay inside if you are in a wheelchair, but it does mean you have to take those extra precautions to make it as enjoyable (Charlie would say epic) as possible.



child with special needs
Jamie Sumner is a special needs mom and author.
Author of the middle-grade novels:















Recent GROW

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *