Help Protect Your Mobility Clients with These Winter Weather Tips

People with disabilities, especially those who use mobility aids, have special needs during periods of severe cold spells, freezing or below-freezing temperatures, ice and snow, and low wind chills. Help protect your clients by offering the following winter weather tips, courtesy of the Washington Military Department, Emergency Management Division.

Freezing Temperatures

Clients who must go outside during freezing or below freezing temperatures should follow these tips to retain body:

  • Wear several layers of clothes with scarves for the neck, head and chest.
  • If possible, wear a pair of thermal gloves underneath a pair of mittens to allow manipulations of the fingers while the hand is enveloped in warmth.
  • Wear at least two pairs of thick socks underneath lined boots.
  • Keep the head covered with a thermal cap with earflaps.
  • If in a wheelchair, use a small lap blanket to wrap around the legs, tucking it in on the sides or underneath to maintain heat to the stomach and lower extremities.
  • Warm up an automobile before getting into it.
  • Shorten the time spent outside.
  • Provide a blanket for a working assistance dog to sit or lay on in the vehicle. Also use a dog coat for wear underneath the regular harness. Consider dog boots for the feet.

Ice, Sleet and Freezing Rain

Ice, sleet and freezing rain are very dangerous for those who use mobility aids. Consider the following tips:

  • Wheelchair users can purchase pneumatic tires for better traction during the winter months. For a less expensive alternative, buy standard dirt bicycle tires found at bicycle shops.
  • Clear ramps of ice by using standard table salt or cat litter. Rock salt is poisonous to working assistance dogs and also can be slippery depending on the type of mobility aid used.
  • Freezing rain will stick to canes, walkers, forearm cuffs and a wheelchair, making the metal parts especially slippery and very cold to the touch. Consider using gripper-driving gloves.
  • When transferring back into the automobile, remove the tires from the wheelchair and shake the debris and ice off before putting them in the vehicle.
  • After returning home, wipe down tire rims and other metal parts that may have collected salt or other chemicals for deicing as soon as possible. These chemicals may rust the metal parts.
  • At crosswalks, people using mobility aids must be very alert to oncoming traffic as they may not be able to stop in time due to ice or low visibility caused by sleet and freezing rain.

Snow and Low Wind Chills

With snow comes low wind chill factors, bringing severe frostbite potential. Frostbite is especially dangerous for people who are paralyzed because limited sensory abilities prevent individuals from maintaining the proper heat. These tips can help:

  • Wear several layers of clothing and mittens over gloves. Use lined boots as footwear.
  • Keep the neck, chest and head covered if going outdoors for short periods.
  • Put a dog coat and boots on assistance dogs. Dogs also can suffer from hypothermia and frostbite.
  • If a person becomes chilled while outside, he or she should go back inside and warm up slowly. Jumping into a hot bath may cause the body to go into shock.
  • Snow is dangerous for citizens using wheelchairs. Heavy wheeling and push and lunging techniques can cause the body to sweat and possibly result in a stroke or heart attack.
  • Limit exposure to snow and wind chills.
  • Wheelchair users should be diligent to check feet, pelvic areas and hands for circulation problems.

This article originally appeared in the November 2006 issue of HME Business.

HME Business Podcast