When using a wheelchair you will have to learn how to open doors while in a manual wheelchair. While this may seem like a hard task to accomplish there are best approach methods that should be followed and practiced to get you through a door while sitting in a manual wheelchair.
Important tips to remember when opening a door in a wheelchair. Both methods can be applied for manual or electric wheelchair users.
Footrests and opening doors
While it may be tempting to use a footrest to open doors you need to apply best practices here to prevent injury to yourself and possible damage to the door.
You should never use a footrest to open the glass door as the footrest can crack and even shatter glass causing serious damage to the wheelchair user.
It is also important to understand that your feet may also extend beyond that of the footrests causing injury to your feet by taking the pressure between the wheelchair and door on impact.
Approaching the door using a footrest should be done at an angle
If the door is not glass you should approach the door at a little angle and towards the angle that the door will open. This will make it easier to open the door with less force.
Doors that open away from the wheelchair user
Doors that open away from the manual wheelchair user are easier, in general, to get through the door than a door that opens towards the wheelchair user.
When opening a door that opens away from the wheelchair user it is best to get as close to the door by moving the wheelchair sideways of the door. This allows for two things to happen.
One, when you put pressure on the door to open the door you will not have the tendency to roll back in the chair. And two you can use two hands when you position the wheelchair sideways in front of the door.
Two hands allow the wheelchair user to put one hand on the door and the other on the door frame for extra support to push.
Doors that open towards the wheelchair user
Because the door will open towards the wheelchair user the positioning of the chair needs to be such that when the door does open the wheelchair user will not get hit. This is why the wheelchair user needs to position the wheelchair to the side of the door so when it swings open the door has room to do so without hitting the wheelchair user.
With the wheelchair positioned to the side of the door, the user should take one hand and put that on the door frame that is opposite of the door hinges.
On the other hand, the user should start to open the door. Having the wheelchair positioned to the side versus straight on will allow the wheelchair to stay in position and not get dragged into the door.
Navigation self open and closing doors
Going through a self-opening door is not complicated. The wheelchair user must wait for the door to open wide enough to get the widest part of the wheelchair through without hitting.
Once the wheelchair users start the process they can use their hands or elbow to ensure the door stays open.
Be sure not to have any type of bags or clothing that can get stuck on the automatic door as this can be dangerous.
Closing a door behind you in a wheelchair
You have a few options at closing the door behind you when in a wheelchair.
- When you get through the door you can simply turn the chair and close the door by gently backing away from the door to close it.
- You can softly close the door behind you and then quickly move through the door so it does not hit the back of your chair.
- You can go backwards through the door closing the door behind you.
* Remember tipping is real and when closing a door do not reach too far back as this can promote tipping.
Final thoughts on closing doors in a wheelchair
The wheelchair user should get familiar with closing doors and opening them as quickly as possible as this will be something that must be learned and used for anyone that spends time in a chair.
The wheelchair user should practice these methods both in the chair going front and backward to close doors.
As the wheelchair user gets more confident and the user masters opening and closing doors that do not close on their own the user can then practice on doors that do.
Learning these techniques will make the wheelchair experience safer and easier in the future.