disabled man suffering from lack of wheelchair accessibility
21 Dec

8 Common Barriers for Users of Wheelchairs


A wheelchair can mean the ticket to independence for some individuals, but the regular built environment is rarely arranged in a way that is easily navigable by individuals using wheelchairs. Beyond the built environment, social interactions can cause an extra strain on those who rely on wheelchairs as their primary mode of mobility. These social and infrastructural barriers impede the lives of wheelchair users every day.

1. Dirty Hands and Blisters

Manual wheelchairs are powered one way: human force. If the individual with the wheelchair navigates solo, they may deal with dirty hands and blisters. This can be problematic when they cannot easily sanitize their hands between trips. Wheelchair hand gloves are a great option for some.

2. Restless Drivers Honking

Sometimes a wheelchair user must enter or exit a vehicle while blocking a section of road. This may seem annoying to other drivers, but it’s likely that the individual with the wheelchair was not given another better option for accessing their car. Honking never helps. In fact, honking can make all parties more nervous or angry.

3. No Ramp or Inaccessible Ramps

One thing that says a lot about the overall accessibility of a building — when there are no ramps in sight! However, in some cases, a building or area is listed with the option of a ramp, but wheelchair users will discover upon arrival that the ramp has a number of problems. These issues usually involve the ramp width, the presence of a few stairs at the bottom of a ramp, or a ramp gradient that’s too steep for self-propelled wheelchairs.

4. Narrow Doorways

Doorways are not always constructed wide enough to allow wheelchairs enough room to pass through, and some buildings are just not large enough for these doorways. Doors that have spring hinges are even more difficult for wheelchair users to navigate since they will not hold open long enough to go through. This can make it that much harder for individuals who use wheelchairs to enjoy public or private buildings.

5. Small But Important Details

Mirrors are rarely the right height to benefit individuals who use wheelchairs. Door knobs can be at a height that makes it difficult for wheelchair users to handle a door on their own. Narrow or crowded hallways create unnecessary challenges for an individual using a wheelchair.

6. The Elevator Race

Elevators changed the game for many people with mobility issues, allowing access to many different floors without great difficulty. However, wheelchair users often face somewhat of a race or stampede to board the elevator. And individuals who use wheelchairs may also encounter a stranger who thinks that the wheelchair users should board the elevator last since the wheelchair takes up the most space.

7. The Reserved Parking Spots

Many parking lots include reserved parking spots for individuals with mobility issues, but many able-bodied individuals use these spots. This can make it even more difficult for individuals who use wheelchairs to go about their daily life activities. Many authorities overlook this recurring issue.

8. Public Transportation Barriers

Individuals who use mobility devices often are unable to access public transportation. This can be due to the surrounding infrastructure, lack of information, or the difficulty of boarding or disembarking. Creating public transportation that serves all requires a high level of integration and planning from start to finish.

One of the biggest barriers for users of wheelchairs is being treated like they are invisible to the greater society — whether it’s in a personal interaction where a stranger might address the wheelchair user’s friend or family member before directly talking to the individual to a more general sense where the needs of individuals with mobility aids are not considered when city planning.

For StrongGo, an accessible world is our goal, and we’re doing our best to create technology to support that world. Speak with an industry expert today by emailing csd@stronggo.com.