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Wheelchair lap belts make sense

There are some alarming photos in the press currently of the wheelchair user getting 'tipped' out of their wheelchair having apparently hit a curb. The photos and video are spread across the Daily Mail, The Sun and a handful of other newspapers in the UK and clearly show a wheelchair in the hands of a carer suddenly tipping forward causing the wheelchair occupant to be ejected forward on to the pavement. By chance one of the cars that was passing this busy street as the wheelchair incident occurred had a dash cam fitted and has captured the entire scene. A fellow motorist was able to stop and assist the woman who had come out of the wheelchair.

The footage was captured mid afternoon one day in October in Bristol and clearly shows the lady slumped in her wheelchair, possibly asleep, moments before the curb is hit. The wheelchair then tips forward and the shaken woman leaves the wheelchair with her hands and arms stretched out in order to break her fall. If she had been wearing a seat belt or lap belt then the consequences may have been rather different. We sell many wheelchairs that come as standard with a restraining lap belt which would prevent the occupant from being ejected from the chair. We also sell lap type wheelchair seat belts separately, which can be fitted to most wheelchairs retrospectively.

Should a wheelchair lap belt be used ?

Wheelchair-related physical restraints including lap belts, and other alternatives are designed to provide safe and adequate seating and mobility for individuals using wheelchairs, with or wit out a carer or attendant. Physical restraints and lap belts are also helpful for positioning users in their wheelchairs to reduce the risk of injury during wheelchair tips and falls. Strangely, although widely prescribed, little evidence is available to direct professionals on the appropriate use of these restraints and lap belts and for whom these restraints are indicated.

However, there is evidence to suggest that wheelchair fitted with seat belts and other restraints can be hazardous if used or fitted incorrectly so do be careful when considering the use of one. These belts are often referred to as positioning belts. Positioning belts may reduce risk of falls from wheelchairs and should be given careful consideration, but caution should be exercised if the individual cannot open the latch independently. We always advice that the wheelchair users should be able to operate the seat belt themselves wherever practically possible.