Wheelchair Flooring Information

Thursday August 27, 2009
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Slip–resistance is one of the most important attributes necessary in flooring suitable for the movement of wheelchairs. The floor surface should provide adequate friction to prevent slippage by a rubber wheel.

The full weight of the wheelchair, including that of its passenger, is distributed between the contact areas of the wheels with the floor. Contact area is related to the width of the wheel and its diameter. This means a wider wheel would have a larger area of contact. Similarly a wheel with a small diameter would have less area of contact.

Some wheelchairs are electrically operated in which case they are relevantly heavy when you add the weight of the motor and battery. The drive wheels of motorized wheelchairs are generally of a small diameter and hence have a smaller floor contact area. If the floor is highly polished and offers little resistance, a situation could arise where the drive wheels of the chair skid for a second or two before gaining traction, a little like a powerful car making a rapid start.

Since the weight is distributed over a relatively small area, the wheels are also liable to cause indentations. Suitable wheel chair flooring should be able to sustain this concentrated load and have the ability of returning to its original level and shape once the load is removed. The floor should not develop permanent furrows after some movement of the wheel chair.

But the flooring must also be hard enough to offer the least possible resistance to rolling. The floors must also be relatively free of bumps and should resist deformation by particle movement on the surface. When moving the chair by hand, a person should not become unduly fatigued with excessive resistance.

Taking these requirements into consideration, some times of high pile carpeting are highly unsuitable. While carpet will meet frictional requirements and would not allow any slippage, some types of carpet are far from firm and will offer too much resistance to rolling.

To a lesser degree the same would apply to vinyl and cork. While vinyl and cork will not offer the same rolling resistance as some types of carpeting, such surfaces are liable to deformation under localized concentrated load. Both surfaces however would meet with frictional requirements.

Certain types of hardwood, laminate and ceramic floors are hard enough and offer a surface much liked by wheel chair users. But again the surface would be a factor as too smooth a surface–finish might have an undesirably low coefficient of friction.

Another factor to consider is the effect of dampness on the floors. All hard surfaces like stone, hardwood and laminate provide less slip resistance when wet. This would not be the case if the surface had a mat finish.

Before you purchase flooring for wheelchair use, be sure to consult a qualified flooring professional that can help you find the right floors to meet all your needs

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Extreme Home Makeover with Disabilty Friendly Flooring
I never knew having a disabilty would spill over into so many areas of one's life. My husband suffers from ALS and we have had our fair share of challenges with wheelchairs and flooring. Having the proper flooring is essential with manual wheelchairs. We struggled with our thick shag carpet and eventually had to move to a one story place with hard surface flooring. Motorized wheelchairs seems to be easier and they are very heavy, especially if you have one with all the bells and whistles. I'm happy to find a site that actually writes about flooring for those using a wheelchair.
September 5 2009
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