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The Wheelchair Wheel Well - Erik Kondo

Updated: Feb 3, 2023

A Wheelchair Wheel Well (WWW) is a simple device that prevents the rear wheels of a wheelchair from rolling, thereby stabilizing the person’s wheelchair. It works by chocking the front and rear sides of both wheels. The holding power of the WWW is determined by the height of the wheel chock.

Why not just use wheelchair brakes?

(1) Wheelchair brakes will also work to stabilize the wheelchair, but some wheelchair users chose not to mount them on their wheelchairs.

(2) In addition, it is common for wheelchair users to have poorly adjusted brakes that allow the wheels to move back and forth. For example, as the inner tube loses air pressure, the brakes become progressively less effective.

(3) The WWW also elevates the rear of the wheelchair slightly which makes it more stable in the rear direction. This additional stabilization is important for people with “tippy” wheelchairs. Note: You can also raise the WWW by placing it on a mat as in the photo. Due to the change in Center of Mass, the higher the rear of the wheelchair, the less rearward tippy the wheelchair becomes (as long as the front casters are NOT raised also).

(4) Finally, the WWW adds an additional degree of safety. Wheelchair brakes work by locking the rear wheels to the frame. The wheelchair is transformed into a “regular” chair. When a regular chair tips backwards, there is no definite way to stop its movement. A wheelchair user’s natural instinct when tipping backwards is to grab on to his or her rear wheels and pull back. This method doesn’t work when the wheels are locked. It is the same as grabbing the armrests of a regular chair. The person still falls over backwards.

When using the WWW, the rear wheels are NOT secured to the frame. Therefore, if the frame starts to tip backwards, the wheelchair user can grab the wheels and pull himself (or herself) back into a stable position by rotating the frame forward.

(5) There are other methods of chocking the wheels by placing objects in front and behind the rear wheels and/or front caster wheels. This method typically requires someone else to chock the wheels or the wheelchair user awkwardly does it. This method is also relatively ineffective since one or more of the multiple wheel chocks typically becomes dislodged after a short period of time.

The WWW in the photo consists of 1” diameter PVC and 90 degree elbows formed into a rectangle. It cost only a few dollars in materials and required minimal effort to create. It is highly effective at stabilizing my wheelchair for a number of activities, particularly those at the gym. WWWs could also be made from metal and wood. There are many possibilities and configurations. I have found that a 10” gap works best for securing my 25” diameter wheels.

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