Basic Wheelchair Skills: Everything you need to know as a new wheelchair user

There are many reasons why someone might need to use a mobility aid, and becoming a new wheelchair user can be overwhelming sometimes; improving your wheelchair skills doesn’t have to be.

Learning the basic wheelchair skills and mastering them can help you greatly to become more independent and regain confidence in yourself. In this blog, you will find explanations and videos we prepared in collaboration with our Clinical Education Team and our friend and Territory Sales Manager, Chris Collin. These videos explain each of these key skills and how you can get proficient in them in no time! 

Basic wheelchair maneuvering

Let’s start with the basic wheelchair maneuvering movements. Once you are confident with these movements, you will be ready to start with some skills that will require a bit more practice.

Forward and Backward Movement: Start by learning how to propel the wheelchair forward and backward using your wheelchair’s handrims. Practice finding a comfortable grip and rhythm.

Turning: Learn different turning techniques, such as the tight turn (for narrow spaces) and wide turn (for more space). Turning while maintaining stability is essential to maintaining your safety and equilibrium.

Stopping: Practice stopping the wheelchair smoothly and gradually. Remember to avoid sudden stops to prevent tipping.

Performing Wheelies

Perhaps one of the most important and difficult wheelchair skills to learn is how to perform a wheelie. 

For those of you who don’t know what it is, a wheelie is the act of balancing yourself in the wheelchair on the two rear wheels. This skill will allow you as a wheelchair user to pass over cracks or small objects on the ground, ascending or descending small curves or steep inclines. 

In the following video, our Education Specialist, Erin Maniaci, together with our friend and sales representative, Chris Collins, show you how to perform wheelies in both folding wheelchair frames and rigid wheelchair frames. 




Picking up something from the ground

We are inevitably going to end up dropping something; it happens all the time. When picking up objects from the floor, you would be surprised by the number of people who have fallen from their wheelchairs while trying to do so. This is why it is super important to learn the basics of how to properly set up your wheelchair to pick things up from the ground safely.

In this video, you will learn how to safely pick up an object from the floor from both the front of your wheelchair and the side of your wheelchair.

Propulsion techniques

Did you know that there are different propulsion techniques? Learning which technique is the most efficient can help you preserve upper extremity health while at the same time helping you go further with each push.

Less than ideal contact with the wheel, thousands of times a day, can have detrimental effects on shoulder health. It is essential to learn how to preserve and maintain upper- extremity health.

In this short video, we show you the 4 most common propulsion techniques while explaining which is the most efficient.

Click here to see it on Instagram

Extra tip: Propulsion efficiency depends on many factors. If you want to learn more about this subject and how your wheelchair and its options and accessories play a key role in how much you get from each push, our Education Team has prepared two blogs explaining everything!

The path to perfect propulsion

The need-to-knows of becoming a propulsion efficiency pro

Getting in and out of a vehicle 

Transporting a wheelchair in and out of a vehicle is an important task that plays an essential role in your day-to-day life. Once you master this skill, you will be truly independent and be able to move freely anywhere you want to. Using the correct techniques when transporting a manual wheelchair in and out of a vehicle can help you avoid repetitive and strenuous upper extremity injuries.

In this video, we explain how to get in and out of your car with your manual wheelchair.

Extra tip: Our Clinical Education team has also prepared two different blogs with important information, key tips and tricks, and important wheelchair and vehicle considerations that could be useful for you if you are looking into improving this skill. Make sure to read them!

Transporting your manual wheelchair in and out of your vehicle

Transporting a manual wheelchair in a vehicle

Transfer from your wheelchair to the floor

There are many reasons why you might want to transfer to the floor, whether it is to play with your kid or your nephew or enjoy a picnic in a local park. You must learn how to transfer to the floor safely to avoid any injuries that could occur while doing it.

In this short video, you will learn how to transfer safely from your wheelchair to the floor.

Click here to see it on Instagram

Transfer from the floor to your wheelchair

Whether it is to get back into your wheelchair after a fall, or to transfer back after a fun day at a park, a super relaxing yoga session, or an intense workout to improve your overall core stability, it is super important to know how to properly transfer from the floor to your wheelchair safely. This is slightly more complicated than learning how to transfer from your wheelchair to the floor, but with some patience and practice, you will learn the proper technique to transfer safely from the floor onto your wheelchair in no time.

Click here to see it on Instagram


Going up and down a curb (assisted)

Unfortunately, not all places will have accessible ramps, which means that going up and down curbs is probably something that you will have to deal with on an everyday basis.

In this short video, we explain how to go up and down curbs when someone is assisting you and how they can make this easier for them while keeping in mind your safety.

Opening doors

Not all buildings have a wheelchair access button for their doors. It is key for any wheelchair user to safely open doors and freely move inside or outside of a building; this will help you to move more independently.

In this short video, we will show you how to open doors easily and safely when there’s no accessibility button.

Click here to see it on Instagram


Remember, becoming proficient in basic wheelchair skills takes practice and patience. At the beginning of your learning journey, we suggest that you practice these skills while supervised by your therapist until you become more confident. Over time, you'll develop the confidence to navigate various environments and situations with ease and on your own. Regular practice and a positive attitude are key to mastering these skills. Don’t forget to be kind to yourself, and always prioritize your safety; learning takes time. Finally, if you have some questions about your specific diagnosis, don’t be shy and make sure to ask your therapist about the best way for you to navigate learning these new skills. 

Don’t forget to check our blog section if you are interested in learning more about wheelchairs, tips and tricks, and more. Or sign up for our newsletter and receive them directly in your inbox! Happy learning!

About Miriam Aguilar Garza

Digital Marketing Specialist at Motion Composites

Miriam holds a Bachelor's Degree in International Business from Universidad Autónoma de Nuevo León (Mexico). She is passionate about writing, reading, traveling, and giving a voice to people in the wheelchair community.