Tips For Getting Around Campus In A Wheelchair

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Content via Jennifer Boulahoud
Jennifer Boulahoud

When summer starts fading away, students begin gearing up for another school year. Jen, a college student and a T10/11 paraplegic, has some great tips for making wheeling around campus a little easier.

What is the best backpack for someone in a manual wheelchair?

It took trial and error for Jen. First, Jen recommends using a messenger bag with a long shoulder strap that you can place over one shoulder then lay on your lap. She prefers this style to a traditional backpack because she “doesn’t like things when they’re hanging behind the chair just because you never know if something is going to fall or if someone is going to try to take something.”

As for the material the backpack is made of, Jen prefers polyester because of its durability. She says cotton bags absorb water, (so if it’s raining, you could be left with a wet legs!), and leather bags tend to slide off your lap.

How do you manage your wheelchair on rainy days?

If you’ve ever tried to hold an umbrella and wheel a manual chair, you know it’s not an easy thing to do! Jen’s solution is an umbrella holder. She found and ordered one online that she puts over one shoulder so that it sits across her chest, and has a hole where the handle of the umbrella can be placed. Now she can free up her hands to push her chair. Jen suggests doing an online search to find an umbrella holder that’s right for you.

Jen also recommends leather gloves to have on hand – quite literally – to help grip wet, slippery wheels. “Leather gloves are the best ones,” she shares. “They’re water resistant, and they just make all the difference.”

How can I stay safe wheeling on campus at night?

“When you’re out on campus late at night, and you have to come back to your apartment, and you’re crossing the street, cars cannot see you when you’re in a wheelchair,” shares Jen. She explained this problem to her dad, and he came up with the idea of incorporating bike lights on her chair. Jen says she pops them onto the side of her chair, and they are a great way to alert motorists of her presence.

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