3.2. Safety


Wheelchair users and caregivers are at risk of acute or chronic injuries, for instance due to tip-over accidents or poor ergonomic technique. The trainer should provide feedback to a learner if the learner uses potentially unsafe methods. Indeed, if concerned about the possibility of acute injury, the trainer should interrupt a skill attempt. For many of the skills, the rear anti-tip devices of a manual wheelchair need to be repositioned or removed. While the rear anti-tip devices are inactivated, the trainer needs to be particularly attentive to the risk of a rear tip-over. At the end of the session, the trainer should restore the rear anti-tip devices to their original positions, unless the learner has progressed to the stage where they can be abandoned.

The goal of wheelchair skills training is for the learner to be able to perform skills safely, effectively and efficiently. Safety includes both the safety of the wheelchair user and the safety of others. If there are two or more ways for a learner to perform a skill and one is considerably safer to perform than the other, the trainer should encourage the learner to use the safer technique. For some learners and some skills that cannot be performed in a consistently safe manner, the most successful outcome of training will be if the learner recognizes that the skill should not be attempted without assistance. A probationary period of supervision may be appropriate before coming to a decision that a person is safe to use a wheelchair independently.