What’s the Hardest Part About Adjusting to Life in a Wheelchair?

The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that over 70 million people need to use a wheelchair to preserve their independence. There are estimates that each year, two-million more people will sustain injuries or illnesses that will require them to use a wheelchair. If you’re a part of this statistic, understanding the difficulties you will face may make it easier to adjust.

Stages of Grief

Being confined to a wheelchair may leave you experiencing the five stages of grief. These are denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. You may feel anger when you go to reach for something you used to grab each day to find it out of reach. It is not unusual to believe this isn’t really happening when you are first confined to the chair.

Going out with friends will be more difficult as you need to be sure the place you are going is handicap accessible. Take the time to allow yourself to move through the stages of grief as you adjust to your new life.

Obstacles to Everyday Life

Running errands may be more difficult for you now. If you are visiting a new business, you may need to call ahead to be sure they are ADA compliant. Although most businesses today are, displays and other items can make it harder to navigate a wheelchair, especially if the store is small. You will probably not be able to reach high shelves, but an employee or another shopper might be willing to help you.

Your home will need modifications, such as ramps to get inside, lowered counters and cabinets, and wider doorways. You may also need to modify your vehicle or buy a disabled access vehicle so you can get around.


If you are using a manual wheelchair, you may initially feel a lot of discomfort in your arms, hands, and upper back. Trying to move a manual chair up a steep hill can put significant strain on your muscles. You will also need to learn how to manage going down hills safely.

Wheelchairs may also put pressure on your hips and lower back, which may also cause some discomfort. There are ways you can make your wheelchair more comfortable, so follow the link if you are having issues with this.

Depending on Others

One of the most difficult things to deal with when you become wheelchair-bound is that you now may have to depend on others. Something as simple as grabbing a cup of coffee off the counter at your favorite coffee shop may require someone to hand it to you. While shopping, you may need another person to get items from high shelves.

Depending on your disability, you may need assistance getting in and out of the chair at first. It could be difficult for you to drive your car until modifications can be made, such as adding hand controls to the steering wheel.

Managing at Work

Employers are required under the ADA to provide you with accommodations so you can continue to work. This may mean creating ramps that will allow you to get in and out of a building or widening work areas that will accommodate the size of your chair. You may need a special desk with a lower surface for a computer, or, if your disability includes your arms or hands, voice-activated software that will allow you to continue working.

If you have suffered an injury or illness that has placed you in a wheelchair and you weren’t the at-fault party, you may be able to seek compensation that can help you pay for medical treatment and special equipment. To collect compensation, you should prove fault and the extent of your injuries.

It is not mandatory to get an injury lawyer who can maximize the settlement and offer the chance of quality of life, but it’s a good idea. You don’t want to risk settling for less than your case is worth when you have so many expenses that will come up in your future.

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