Like many of you, the Amputee Coalition is monitoring COVID-19 (novel coronavirus) as it continues to evolve day by day. As a nonprofit health advocacy organization, we want to communicate and engage on emerging health news responsibly. We recognize that some members of our community face unique challenges during this difficult time.
Wheelchair or Other Assistive Technology (AT) Users
In addition to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines, users of wheelchairs or other types of assistive technology have unique precautions to take related to hand washing, disinfecting surfaces, and social distancing. COVID-19 can survive on wheelchair and other AT surfaces that you come into frequent contact with, such as push rims, wheelchair tires, and joysticks. If proper precautions are not taken, the virus may be transferred to your wheelchair or other AT and then to you.
- Clean Your Hands
Washing your hands properly and frequently is a crucial step to protect yourself from COVID-19. Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are unavailable, you can use hand sanitizer that is (at a minimum) 60% alcohol. For manual wheelchair users, if you push your tires instead of using hand rims, you are touching everywhere you have rolled so cleaning your hands frequently is vital. You can use gloves as another option to aid in keeping your hands clean. However, if you use gloves, be mindful of where you put them when you take them off. You also should wash your hands before putting gloves on to prevent the spread of the virus to the inside of the glove. Additionally, avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
- Clean Your Wheelchair or other AT
Frequently cleaning the surfaces of your wheelchair or other AT is an important practice. Viruses can be present on all solid surfaces that you touch. You can use soap and water or, if soap and water are not available, use disinfecting wipes. You can also make a bleach solution by diluting 5 tablespoons of bleach per gallon of water. However, some plastics and fabrics will react poorly to bleach, so be mindful of what surfaces you are using a bleach solution on. It is best that you wash your hands both before and after cleaning your wheelchair or other assistive technology.
- Social Distance
The CDC recommends maintaining good social distance of at least 6 feet from others and to avoid all nonessential travel outside of your home. Many states and local governments have issued orders or provided guidance that is more restrictive than federal guidelines. Wheelchair users tend to sit lower than individuals standing and may be more susceptible to exposure of saliva droplets when talking to people. Keeping the recommended social distance can help limit exposure to the virus. The CDC also advises to wear cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain (e.g., grocery stores and pharmacies).
We recognize and value your role as a member of the community and that you may interact with populations who may be more susceptible to COVID-19. For the most up-to-date information and guidance on prevention and preparedness, please visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Coronavirus website. We will continue to rely on trusted sources, like the CDC, for information about the disease. We encourage all of you to follow public health guidance regarding school closures, avoiding crowds, and other social/physical distancing measures and to please adhere to your state’s mandates. The CDC and your physician’s office are your best sources of information for COVID-19 diagnosis, prevention, and management questions. To recap, some general rules of thumb from the CDC:
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20
- Use hand sanitizer that is at least 60% alcohol if soap and water are not readily
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed
- If you are a wheelchair or other assistive technology user, wash the surfaces of your wheelchair and other assistive devices frequently. Wash your hands before cleaning the wheelchair or assistive technology and
- Practice social distancing-keep at least 6 feet apart from others, especially in social
- Stay home if you are
- Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze or use the inside of your elbow.
- Wear a face mask if you are
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces
- You can find the full list of CDC Guidelines on how to protect yourself here: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/prevention.html
We will continue to be here for you while we are all adapting to our new normal. You can reach out to us for support by calling 888-267-5669 or by clicking on any of these useful links:
It is not the intention of the Amputee Coalition to provide specific medical or legal advice but rather to provide consumers with information to better understand their health and healthcare issues. The Amputee Coalition does not endorse any specific treatment, technology, company, service or device. Consumers are urged to consult with their healthcare providers for specific medical advice or before making any purchasing decisions involving their care.
This project was supported, in part, by grant number 90LLRC0001-01-00, from the Administration for Community Living, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Washington, D.C. 20201. Grantees undertaking projects under government sponsorship are encouraged to express freely their findings and conclusions. Points of view or opinions do not, therefore, necessarily represent official Administration for Community Living policy.
© Amputee Coalition. Local reproduction for use by Amputee Coalition constituents is permitted as long as this copyright information is included. Organizations or individuals wishing to reprint this article in other publications, including other World Wide Web sites must contact the Amputee Coalition for permission to do so.