A total of 3.3 out of every thousand residents of the US currently use a wheelchair. There are many reasons why a person might use a wheelchair on a permanent basis. These include paralysis from a spinal cord injury, including quadriplegia and paraplegia, double amputation, cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis and chronic arthritis. These are people who cannot walk on their own and must always travel by wheelchair. Some choose to sit in a wheelchair at all times as well, which makes issues like pressure sores from sitting in an uncomfortable wheelchair an issue.
People with balance problems can require a wheelchair, too. The balance issue makes them unable to stand and walk on their own so they choose to sit and maneuver with a wheelchair to lessen the risk of fall from poor balance.
Some alternatives to 4 wheel chairs are trikes, which can be motorized. These should be custom built to your dimensions so you have as little a risk of falling off as possible. The height and seat style need also to be adjusted to your personal needs. You can get a trike built that works well for your own personal disability. Trikes are more for movement than wheelchairs, on which you can sit for long periods of time. The seats are often built for swiveling so that the person can move from wheelchair to trike. Foot plates and ski clamps or Velcro are used to keep the feet in place. All controls are hand operated.
There is a new trike called the Martin Conquest Trike that can be used in people who have a hard time transferring from wheelchair to trike. It allows wheelchair people to independently move on a trike outdoors or just about anywhere.
The question with these types of devices is: are they inherently dangerous? In one study, about 3.3 percent of wheelchair-bound individuals suffer from some kind of serious injury. A few of these incidents are fatal.
One research study looked at the risk of death from a wheelchair injury by accessing the death certificate database at the National Information Clearinghouse of the Consumer Product Safety Commission. It was found that, over the course of the years 1973-1987, there were 770 wheelchair associated deaths. Most people (596 people) fell from their chair or had their chair tipped over. The rest were environmentally related deaths, such as falling down stairs in 51 deaths, having sustained fatal burns (48 deaths), deaths due to smoking hazards (27 deaths) and deaths due to asphyxia from improperly placed restraints (44 deaths). Deaths were due to injuries in both young and old wheelchair-bound individuals with ages 1-20.
Many of these deaths may be preventable with people taking care to have some kind of restraint to make sure those who might fall out of the chair remain in the seat but making sure the restraint doesn’t bind the airway. Many wheelchairs may be defective, and in any serious injury, a products liability attorney should be contacted. Stairwells need to be protected, especially from children or those with Alzheimer’s disease who do not always recognize that they are near a stairwell. Burns can be prevented by eliminating smoking in the wheelchair and keeping hot surfaces away from the wheelchair-bound person.