Grade Aid: The One Thing Your Wheelchair Might Be Missing

Manual wheelchair users negotiate obstacles throughout the community by applying a specialized set of wheelchair skills.

Propelling up and down ramps and popping wheelies unlock a larger world of possibilities for work, education, and social engagement. Manual wheelchair users with strong wheelchair skills tend to have higher life satisfaction and community participation.

Ramps throughout communities, designed to provide accessibility, present major challenges to manual wheelchair users with upper extremity weakness. Uphill propulsion has been found to be the most painful of all the wheelchair skills due to the high impact, repetitive forces on the shoulder. Furthermore, ramps present a risk for injury as traveling uphill creates opportunity for both rolling and falling backwards.

Wheelchair users with upper extremity weakness may find navigating inclines easier with the use of a grade aid. A grade aid is an anti-rollback device that allows forward propulsion while blocking backwards rolling. Once engaged by the user, the wheelchair will not roll backwards even when the user’s hands are not in contact with the push rim. This allows the user to confidently and safely ascend the ramp at a comfortable pace.

Using a grade aid can contribute to reduced injury risk and improved quality of life for a manual wheelchair user with upper extremity weakness. Newton offers a low profile, light weight, all-in-one Grade Aid Wheelock. Newton’s Grade Aid Wheelock provides wheel lock, freewheel, and grade aid functions at 30% less weight than the industry standard anti-rollback device. This innovative grade aid is a simple solution for an otherwise independent manual wheelchair user struggling with slopes in the community.

About Olivia Tefera, PT, DPT

Olivia specializes in DME, CRT AND SCI physiotherapy. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Biology from Baylor University in Waco, Texas, and a Doctor of Physiotherapy degree from Bellarmine University in Louisville, Kentucky.