Happy International Wheelchair Day Occupational Therapy (March 1, 2020)


When is International Wheelchair Day?

International Wheelchair Day is on the 1st of March every year – around the world!

How did it begin?

Steve Wilkinsonis the founder of International Wheelchair Day. It was founded in 2008 to provide a platform for wheelchair users to celebrate the positive impact a wheelchair had on their lives.

How can I spread awareness?

Spread the word on social media using these banners, stickers, and artwork. Consider organizing fundraisers or donating to people in need of wheelchairs or better wheelchairs.

Artwork by Drawing the Curtain (Sari)

The Aims of International Wheelchair Day

  • To enable wheelchair users to celebrate the positive impact a wheelchair has in their lives.
  • To celebrate the great work of the many millions of people who provide wheelchairs, who provide support and care for wheelchair users and who make the World a better and more accessible place for people with mobility issues.
  • To acknowledge and react constructively to the fact there are many tens of millions of people in the World who need a wheelchair, but are unable to acquire one.

Some causes of wheelchair use

  • Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis
  • Cerebral Palsy
  • Congestive Heart Failure
  • COPD
  • Cystic Fibrosis
  • Diabetes
  • Epilepsy
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Muscular Dystrophy
  • Obesity
  • Osteoporosis
  • Parkinsons Disease
  • Post-Polio Syndrome
  • Spinal Cord Injury
  • Traumatic Brain Injury
  • Vascular Disease

Positive Impact of Wheelchairs

It’s a day of celebration for the freedom a wheelchair gives me and millions of others throughout the world. I would be unable to get out and about and have the quality of life I have if it wasn’t for my wheelchair.

The wheelchair is one of the most commonly used assistive devices for enhancing the personal mobility of people with disabilities. An estimated 1% of the world’s population, or just over 65 million people, need a wheelchair. In most developing countries, few of those who need wheelchairs have access, production facilities are insufficient and wheelchairs are often donated without the necessary related services. Providing wheelchairs that are appropriate, well-designed and fitted not only enhances mobility, but also opens up a world of education, work and social life for those in need of such support (WHO).

Occupational Therapy Role

Occupational therapists can:

  • Become proficient and knowledgeable about wheelchair fitting and use.
  • Recommend the use of appropriate durable medical equipment (DME) such as wheelchairs and consider types (regular, lightweight, electronic, etc.).
  • Educate clients on how to use wheelchairs safely, manage their parts, navigate their environment.
  • Modify their environment to accommodate wheelchair use.
  • Advocate for pressure injury prevention with appropriate pressure reduction cushions, leg rests, and other parts.
  • Advocate for trays for eating and arm troughs for the prevention of shoulder subluxation.
  • Adjust and fit wheelchairs to meet the users needs, including use of accessory parts, e.g. cup holders, cell phone holders, communication devices.
  • Practice with clients to engage in meaningful occupations while in a wheelchair.
  • Teach clients how to transfer onto and off wheelchairs.
  • Volunteer locally and in third-world countries to teach clients wheelchair use and fit them appropriately (e.g., oversized wheelchairs).


  • When talking with a wheelchair user, attempt to converse at eye level as opposed to standing and looking down. If they have a communication impairment as well as a mobility impairment, take time to understand the person. Repeat what you understand, and when you don’t understand, say so.
  • A person with a physical disability may or may not want assistance in a particular situation. Ask before giving assistance, and wait for a response. Listen to any instruction they may give. By virtue of experience, the person likely knows the safest and most efficient way to accomplish the task at hand.
  • Be considerate of the extra time it might take a person with a disability to speak or act.
  • Allow the person to set the pace of walking or talking.

Safety Tips

Consider the installation of anti-tippers to prevent wheelchair users from tipping back and injuring themselves.

A Standing Wheelchair?!

Take Action

  • Raise awareness
  • Organize a fundraiser
  • Donate: wheelchairfoundation.org
  • Like & share this post with your friends, family, and followers!





Jeff is a licensed occupational therapist and lead content creator for OT Dude. He covers all things occupational therapy as well as other topics including healthcare, wellness, mental health, technology, science, sociology, and philosophy. Buy me a Coffee on Venmo.