One of the most common concerns shared by most mobility scooter users is also perhaps the most inevitable of all:
What happens when you’re caught out in bad weather?
Living in the UK means facing the ongoing dilemma of weather conditions that can change in a heartbeat; not necessarily the end of the world in summer, but a pretty risky business when heading out and about during the colder months of the year.
But even in a climate as unpredictable as that of the UK, your enjoyment of the great outdoors does not need to be spoiled entirely by the weather. Instead, you simply need to set yourself up with the right accessories and extras, while putting a little more thought and planning into your outings.
With this in mind, here are 10 simple yet essential pointers for heading out and about in less-than-perfect weather conditions:
- Plan your route carefully
The prospect of poor weather conditions heightens the importance of planning your route carefully. In the event of a sudden downpour, a pathway that’s usually quite easy to traverse could become dangerously muddy or slippery. You could also find yourself dealing with dangerously deep puddles or the risk of being splashed by motorists speeding by. Think carefully about how bad weather may affect your journey, and adjust your route accordingly.
- Keep an eye on the weather forecast
The UK weather forecast is not exactly renowned for its accuracy. But as it is the only weather forecast we have, it is still a good idea to keep your eye on it. If there is a prediction of rain, snow, strong winds, fog, or anything else that could affect your journey, it’s best to assume it’s correct. And if possible, rearrange your journey for a safer time, or consider alternative transportation options (like taking a taxi).
- Anticipate dangers ahead of time
As is the case when operating any other vehicle in public, you need to anticipate changes in advance when operating a wheelchair. Public pavements can be just as precarious as busy roads in bad weather. Staying safe therefore means staying alert, and being mindful of anything that could pose a risk to your safety ahead of time. Not to mention, make sure that you don’t pose a risk to other people in the vicinity at the time, by sticking to a sensible speed.
- Ensure you have appropriate tires
Depending on the type of wheelchair or mobility scooter you have, it may or may not be fitted with tires that are suitable for wet weather. The same can also be said for frosty and icy conditions, for which many mobility aids are simply not designed. Unless you have a wheelchair or mobility scooter that clearly states its suitability for specific weather conditions, you have to assume it is not suitable.
- Wear the right clothing
The ‘right’ clothing for wheelchair use in poor weather is the kind of clothing that keeps you safe and dry. There are plenty of specially designed ponchos, gloves, jackets, and other accessories available that do just that. If there’s any risk of the weather taking a turn for the worse during your routine, be sure to pack the appropriate waterproof accessories for the ride.
- Pack plenty of extras
This means keeping yourself safe in the event that something goes awry along the way. Something to drink, something to eat, spare gloves, dry socks – everything you might need if you find yourself in a bind. It can also be a good idea to keep a few basic tools in your wheelchair back, just in case you need to make any minor on-the-spot repairs to your chair.
- Use hand and body warmers
These can be great when things get really nippy outdoors. All you need to do is remove them from the packaging, give them a shake, and enjoy welcome warmth for your hands (and anywhere else you need to warm up) for a good few hours. There are disposable warmers you can simply throw out after using them, and others that can be ‘recharged’ several times over in the microwave.
- Keep your phone and power bank charged
Speaking of charging, keeping your mobile phone (and ideally a spare power bank) charged is a must. With a working mobile phone, you pretty much have everything you need to get yourself out of any sticky situation you may encounter. It’s also the best way of keeping friends and family members informed of your whereabouts, and ensuring help can be sent your way if needed.
- Keep yourself visible
Poor visibility is practically inevitable in the winter but can be compensated for with a broad range of battery-powered lights and standard reflectors. Remember that in order to make yourself as visible as possible you need to ensure that you can be seen from all angles – not just the front and back. Specialist lights for wheelchairs are available, or you could simply fit a set of bicycle lights.
- Stay home if unsure
It isn’t worth putting your health and safety on the line if the weather outdoors is particularly foreboding. If you have any concerns whatsoever about your capacity to reach your destination safely and in complete confidence, stay at home.