Continuing the ‘beginners guide to wheelchair life‘ this post will answer the first question from a JBOT fan… Wheelchair Accessories to answer your wheelchair woes.
“How to carry anything whilst self-propelling!” – Ellie May Petty.
This is something that most new wheelies struggle with.. balancing things on your lap (and dropping them) hanging things off the back (and tipping over).. what is the best solution? Is it risky keeping your bag behind you?
Well, there are a few companies out there that have solved the problem…
Trabasack Wheelchair Lap Trays have combined a tray and a bag to make level, sturdy alternatives to balancing things on your knees. Their bags are available in a few different sizes and a few colours too! These are perfect for working wheelies on-the-go who are often faced with inaccessible offices and too-low tables. The bottom of the tray works similarly to beanbag backed lap trays, this makes it nice and easy to keep the tray level even if your knees arent. The trays feature a strap that goes around your back when seated to keep it secure and prevent snatch-and-grab thefts. The trays have a curved edge to fit around your tummy with no awkward edges. There are lots of different variations available including velcro bumpers that hold a tablet upright.
If you’re looking for storage space that keeps your lap free then an under-seat bag might be the solution for you. I have one just like the photo. They are a generic bag that’s available from loads of different mobility and healthcare shops, pop ‘wheelchair under-seat bag’ into a search engine and you’ll find a decent choice at a range of prices. These bags clip on with quick release buckles and are simple (if a little awkward) to fit. Since I have a rigid chair the bag stays on most of the time but if you have a folding chair you might need to remove it or at least empty it to collapse your chair. Most of these bags come in a rather boring navy blue but I’m lead to believe black ones are out there somewhere! Having your valuables under the seat means that the only way someone can get to your bag is to actually reach between your legs, unfortunately the awkwardness that keeps your wallet safe also makes it harder for you to reach!
If you’re not looking for anything that big there are lots of companies offering small under-seat storage too. I bought an under seat pouch from GBL wheelchairs a few years ago but you can get them easily online, search for ‘wheelchair under seat pouch’. This was a little harder to fit initially but now I just leave the buckles attached if I take the bag off. It’s quick and easy to fit that way. The little pouch easily fits my wallet, phone, lip gloss and other essentials (like hand sanitizer) but not much else. Mine is plain black, some other companies put their brand on them but usually they’re pretty subtle.
If reaching under the seat isn’t possible, lots of wheelies turn to the adventure industry for help. Carabiners (used for mountaineering and climbing) can solve a range of issues, I almost always have one on my chair just-in-case. If, like me you have a rigid back rest there is likely to be a loop at the top to help with fitting the backrest. I hang a carabiner off that and it often holds shopping bags, sports drinks bottles with loops and my power assist remote control. Some carabiners, called screw-gates, have a twisty locking mechanism that will add a bit of security, if anyone tries to take something off the carabiner you’re likely to notice before they manage to actually rob you!
A few companies are now offering wheelchair friendly rucksacks. Wheelchair Gear has a decent selection with a few fun designs. Their bags have two small loops that fit over wheelchair push handles. Draping a standard rucksack over a chair back means sitting against the buckles and pulling the backrest wonky, with these bags there’s no such problem. Unfortunately for super active users with really low profile back support you do need push handles.
If you’re feeling crafty and have access to a sewing machine it is possible to whizz up your own bag clips. I came up with this design a few years ago and got Granny to make them for me. Simply put the loop over the push-handles and use the clip to attach any handbag.
If you’re struggling to find accessories for wheelchair it’s worth looking at parenting and cycling options, there are lots of little gadgets designed to fit on pushchair or bicycle frames that can also fit on wheelchairs. I need to get a new one (after frequently crashing into things) but I usually have a drinks bottle holder on the front of my chair. My last one (and probably my next too) is a simple alloy bottle holder from Halfords, it cost me about £3.99 and just attaches with cable ties.
I hope this has been useful, please feel free to share your own ideas. As always questions, comments and shares are most welcome!