Wheelchair Safety

"Children need time to learn how to get along and accept everyone for who they are. If an adaptation to a specific activity can’t be made (due to facility, safety issues, or limitations of the disability) it is better that alternate skills be taught so the activity can remain fully inclusive." (Ophea.net)

When planning for the inclusion of a child with a physical disability always consider the following questions:

  • Is the activity appropriate for the age and development level of the child?
  • What specific safety “rules” pertain to a particular activity and have you reviewed them with all participants?  (More on this can be found in “Modification and Adaptations”)
  • What are the specific safety needs of the children? (obstacles, exits, wheelchair access)
  • Is the all of the equipment appropriate and in good condition?
The physical, psychological, and social safety of the individual are important environmental factors in any play setting. Games and activities should challenge all children but awareness about current limitations need to be understood by both the facilitator and the individual. Kids in particular need to know how far they can go and challenge that in a way that doesn't put them self or others in harm’s way. 
Safety considerations when using specialized equipment should be reviewed with all participants when reviewing safety rules for each activity and reinforced throughout their active play.  A walk through of the space will provide the proper orientation to objects such as benches, doorways, nets, or other obstacles in the playing environment. Equipment should be checked regularly to ensure the safety of all participants, and specifically the sport wheelchairs should be checked each session before use.  Review the information on wheelchair components and wheelchair maintenance which all contribute to ensuring a safe playing environment.  The 5th wheel (the small rear wheel that extends from the frame of the wheelchair to the floor in the back) should be pointed out to all participants.  This wheel provides stability to the person using the wheelchair and should never be hit from behind by another wheelchair or moving object.