Tips on Handling Manual Wheelchairs | SPD - Singapore

Tips on Handling Manual Wheelchairs


People often get afraid or awkward around wheelchair users because they do not know how to react or help them when the situation arises. With some handy tips, we hope to help minimise such uncomfortable situations and promote a more caring and gracious community.
Most of the time, manual wheelchair users are well-adapted to their wheelchairs and do not require much help. However, in times of need, such as on an upslope, or a rough terrain, manual wheelchair users do require some help. During those moments, the wheelchair user may feel more assured knowing there is someone who is competent in handling a manual wheelchair around him.

SPD’s occupational therapist, Teng Mei Ling, shares some tips on things to take note when we assist manual wheelchair users.

Should I help everyone who is using a wheelchair?
• Always ask whether the user requires assistance before stepping in to help.
• Ask for instructions to clarify what kind of assistance is required.
• Do not be offended if your offer has been declined.

To unfold (open) a wheelchair:
1. Stand in front of the wheelchair.
2. Push down on both sides of the seat, keeping fingers inwards.
To fold (close) a wheelchair:  
1. Stand in front of the wheelchair.
2. Remove any cushion, if necessary.
3. Swing footrests away, or remove them.

4. Hold the midpoint of the seat at the front and back and pull upwards
Before pushing off, please ensure that:

1. User’s seat belt (if any) is securely fastened.
2. User’s arms are placed within the wheelchair on laps, or on armrests.
3. User’s feet are on the foot plate.
4. Brakes are unlocked.
Negotiating Slopes and Ramps:
Going UP: Push the wheelchair
Going DOWN: Turn the wheelchair around and manoeuvre it slowly down the ramp while walking backwards.
After helping: Only apply the brakes when the wheelchair is at a complete stop and on a level surface.
You can get more information on wheelchair parts and overcoming kerbs here. Below is a video that can give you a better understanding on overcoming kerbs:

We conduct general disability etiquette training to companies covering topics ranging from interaction with employees who are hard of hearing to handling employees using wheelchairs and making job accommodations.
If your company is open to hiring persons with disabilities and would like to find out more how you can go about doing it, please contact us at
- 3rd Enabling Masterplan Steering Committee. (2016). 3rd Enabling Masterplan 2017-2021: Caring nation, Inclusive society. Singapore: National Council of Social Services.
- Understanding persons with disabilities. [Brochure]. (n.d.) Singapore: SPD.