Wheelchairs and lifts

Wheeling someone in a chair into and out of a lift brings its challenges and decisions. Do you go in forwards or backwards?

Forwards can be a bit unnerving for the passenger if the doors start to close soon, as many of them do. A wheelchair passenger’s feet go first; they are vulnerable.

Backwards gets over that; if the doors start to close I am the buffer and I can cope. The problem then starts when it is time to come out. The front wheels need to change direction from backwards mode to forwards mode. This can cause some indecisiveness on the steering while they adjust themselves. It can cause some resistance to motion if they try to adjust themselves in opposite directions. The way round this is to do a slick steer sideways slightly one way and the other. But that is not practicable if the lift is confined or crowded.

Other lift users sometimes try to help, but not always effectively. Some become confused as to which button holds the door open. I have even known people to inadvertently try to close the doors when we want to pass through. People can also be confused it I turn round backwards before entering the lift; they don’t expect this.

I recently took my wife on a cruise. With a passenger in a wheelchair on a cruise ship you can expect to use a lift many times a day. It is essential for even a single flight of stairs. We had two hairy incidents which made me rethink through the whole strategy. Both incidents occurred when we were trying to leave a lift after having reversed in.

In one instance the door closed onto my wife’s foot and did not reopen immediately. She was not hurt but very scared at being trapped in this way. In thes other instance, in a very small lift, as the front wheels were turning round, one of them fell sideways into the gap between the lift car and the landing. I managed to squeeze round to the front of the chair and lift it clear, but this was very frightening for my wife.

My strategy now is as follows. I stand in front of the wheelchair, facing it, grab the armrests and walk backwards into the lift, drawing the wheelchair with me. This is not the most comfortable or natural-feeling way to move a wheel chair but it feels a lot safer entering the lift. To leave the lift I go the the back of the wheelchair and draw it out backwards. The front wheels changing direction do not seem to pose a problem in reverse; I pull and the wheelchair goes where I pull it.

This strategy is not necessary where the lift is large and not crowded, or the doors do not close in a hurry. I get to know the lifts we regularly use in town and how best to deal with them.

Has anyone else had problems with wheelchairs in lifts, or ideas of how best to manage?

10 years of that and more during my 10 year stint over a decade ago.

Backwards … by a slim majority … even if it’s a race to get caree in wheelchair inside before the doors close on him / her.

( Having said that , it’s frontwards when getting out … unless lift is large enough to turn the wheelchair around ? )

To be fair to the local hospital , always someone on hand to assist … even a consultant once !

Wheel on , wheel off trains and buses ?

Pass … neither had that facility in my time … so we didn’t use them … and my back still occasionly plays up !
( Even now on Northern Rail … Pacer trains … try getting a wheelchair on / off one of those full of commuters ! )

Tower blocks … even when the lift is working … ???

London carers … and the Underground ( Where there’s no other option ) … could have some interesting views ?