For this week’s blog, let’s talk about wheelchair safety by the water. To begin, let’s acknowledge that everyone deserves the opportunity to enjoy the water. We may be a water safety blog, but we firmly believe that no one should ever live in fear of swimming! That said, individuals using wheelchairs will need to exercise a bit more caution.

For these folks, navigating the pool or waterfront areas requires an extra layer of preparedness. In today’s post, we’ll explore some recommended precautions and offer some tips for wheelchair users to stay safe by the water, as well as how to prepare for potential flooding danger.

Start with Accessible Locations for Wheelchair Safety by the Water

First things first, your location matters! Before heading to any waterfront destination, it is crucial to choose areas that offer accessibility features that are specifically tailored for wheelchair users. Before taking a dip, look for amenities such as wheelchair ramps, accessible parking spaces, and wheelchair-friendly paths leading to the water. Fortunately, many public beaches and parks already provide these accommodations.

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Navigating Tough Terrain and Weather Conditions

Once at the waterfront, take a moment to assess the terrain and current conditions. Uneven or sandy surfaces can pose challenges to wheelchair safety by the water. In this case, it is essential to pay attention to weather forecasts, tide schedules, and any posted warnings regarding water conditions. Avoid areas with strong currents or hazardous underwater obstacles, as these can present dangers for wheelchair users.

Always Bring the Right Gear

Investing in sturdy, appropriate equipment can significantly increase both safety and comfort when it comes to wheelchair safety by the water. Consider using a beach wheelchair with oversized wheels. These are usually specifically designed to navigate sand and uneven terrain. Additionally, check–and double-check–that any mobility aids, including canes and crutches, are securely fastened to the wheelchair. In the end, this can help prevent loss or damage.

Seeking Assistance

This next part should go without saying, but never hesitate to ask for help when needed. Whether a person in a wheelchair needs help navigating tough terrain or exiting the water, having a supportive friend or family member nearby can provide much-needed safety and reassurance. The Buddy System is great for this!

Many waterfront destinations also offer trained staff or volunteers who can assist wheelchair users when it comes to accessing the water safely. Above all, always check with the lifeguards. They will typically know the unique amenities and services that their location offers.

Wheelchair Safety by the Water Means Preparing for Floods

Of course, every day isn’t a simple day at the beach or pool. There are serious hazards that can occur right in our own homes. Beyond general precautions for wheelchair safety by the water, it is important to be prepared for potential floods at home. Here are some essential tips that could save a life:

Stay Informed

Stay updated on weather forecasts and flood alerts in your area. Sign up for emergency notifications from local authorities to receive timely information and instructions.

Develop an Evacuation Plan

Planning ahead is always key. Create a comprehensive evacuation plan that includes multiple escape routes and designated meeting points. Make sure that the evacuation plan addresses the specific needs of wheelchair users, including accessible transportation options.

Maintain Communication

Above all, be sure to keep in touch with your loved ones. Before trouble arrives, establish a communication plan with family members, caregivers, or neighbors to stay connected during emergencies. Everyone should share contact information and check-in procedures.

Elevate Wheelchair

If flooding seems imminent, elevate your wheelchair to a safe location to prevent damage. Consider storing it on an elevated platform or securing it indoors if possible. In the event of flooding, prioritize moving to higher ground to avoid rising water levels. Avoid low-lying areas and areas prone to flooding, such as riverbanks or coastal regions.

Build an Emergency Flood Kit

FEMA recommends that flood disaster prep kits cover the basic necessities for survival: food, water, and any life-sustaining medications or items you need to maintain your health, safety and independence.

Check the Pool First: Searching for a Missing Child

As a wheelchair user, you’ll want to create two kits. One should be hyper-portable; the other is for your home. First, your “grab-and-go” kit should be lightweight, small and contain only the basic necessities. The second kit should include everything you’ll need to stay where you are for a period of time.

FEMA’s Prep Kit Emergency Supply Suggestions Include:
  • One gallon of water, per person, per day for at least three days. This water is used for drinking and sanitation.
  • At least a three-day supply of non-perishable food. (Include a can opener if you have canned food in your kit. Don’t look down on Spam and beef jerky. They could save your life in an emergency!)
  • Battery-powered or hand-crank radio and a NOAA Weather Radio with tone alert. Remember to grab a few extra batteries for both radios.
  • Battery-powered or hand crank cell phone charger.
  • Flashlight and extra batteries. A small, hand crank lantern also works.
  • Pack a basic first aid kit
  • A loud whistle to signal for help
  • Moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties (twist or zip) for your personal sanitation needs.
  • An extra set of dry clothes

Whether it’s a leisurely day at the beach or preparing for potential floods, proper preparation is key to a safe experience.

Wheelchair Safety by the Water