Lady in a wheelchair out with friends in the winter

Although winter in Ottawa can be beautiful, it poses unique challenges to you as a wheelchair user. However, wheeling through all that snow and ice will be a lot less stressful if you are properly prepared. With that in mind, check out these 7 tips to help you manage your wheelchair in the winter.

1. Get Your Wheelchair Inspected

A small mechanical issue can become a big problem when you are out and about in challenging road conditions. So have your wheelchair inspected and adjusted – preferably before the first snowfall — to make sure all connections are tight, the chair frame is solid, and all parts are fully functional and properly lubricated.

2. Equip Winter Tires

Just as cars need a change of tires to navigate snowy, icy roads, your wheelchair will also have to be equipped with special winter tires. Install soft rubber tires with a spiky, knobby surface, in a wider width if possible, to give yourself better traction in slippery conditions.

3. Juice Up Your Battery

You definitely do not want to lose battery power while you’re making your way in chilly, potentially hazardous conditions. Be aware that both the cold and the effort of moving your foldable travel wheelchair through the snow will tend to drain your electric wheelchair battery much more quickly than usual. Make sure that you always fully charge your battery before setting out, and limit the distances you travel

4. Dress Appropriately

Choose weather appropriate clothing. Several light layers will allow you to adjust as the weather changes throughout the day, or as you move from outside to indoors. 

Your top layer should be water-resistant in case of snow or rain. Be sure to keep your head and hands warmly covered; wear heavy waterproof gloves if you will be pushing yourself in a manual wheelchair. Sunglasses and sunscreen will provide welcome protection from the sun’s glare on snow.

TIP: Be extra careful to cover any parts of your body which have impaired sensation.

5. Take Extra Precautions

Expect the unexpected, as the saying goes, and stay safe when travelling by wheelchair in winter. Lights on your wheelchair, plus a reflective safety vest on yourself, will make you more visible, especially when you’re outside after dark (and dark comes early on Canadian winter afternoons). 

Wear a helmet in case your chair unexpectedly tips on the ice. Always carry a fully charged cell phone. Keep a bag containing extra medications, an insulated bottle of water (the insulation will keep it from freezing outdoors!), and a high-energy snack within easy reach. And be sure to allow additional time to make it to your destination.

6. Cover Wheelchair Joystick

The joystick is an essential (and sensitive!) component of a power wheelchair. Be sure to protect its delicate electronics outdoors in the winter season with a moisture-resistant cover (this handy wheelchair accessory is also great during rainstorms, no matter what the season). When purchasing a joystick cover, look for a transparent plastic window that will allow you to see the controls easily. In case of emergency, use a plastic bag as a temporary cover.

7. Consider Travelling With Others

A buddy or two at your side can be very helpful when the going gets treacherous, due to slush, black ice, or deeply piled snow. If that’s not possible, inform someone of where you are going, when you plan to arrive, and when you expect to return. That way, they can check up on you if a weather-related mishap upsets your plans.

Get Your Wheelchair Winter-Ready

Ensure your wheelchair is safe and comfortable this winter. Conval-Aid provides the services you are looking for – professional wheelchair inspection and adjustment, winter tire installation, and any accessories you may need.


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