How to Get a Wheelchair Up and Down Stairs (Complete Guide)

how to get a wheelchair up and down stairs

Propelling forward with a standard wheelchair is a lot of weight, not to mention going up and down the stairs with it.

The stairs movement is a feeling every wheelchair user dread since it requires a special approach to navigate smoothly.

The simple truth is that getting a wheelchair up and downstairs is a lot of work, especially if the person sitting on it has a higher body mass index. But no worries. Here’s the help you need.

You will find the step-by-step guide on easily navigating the stairs when using a wheelchair. Make sure to share the love with others after reading.

Table of Contents

Actions to Take When Getting a Wheelchair Up and Down Stairs

Get Rid of Extra Load

The smartest thing to do when going up and down the stairs is to get rid of the extra load. Going up and down the stairs is more challenging with extra baggage like an umbrella, a water bottle, or a book. The wheelchair itself is heavy, and you shouldn’t add more to the weight.

Here’s the trick.

The more weight you carry the more challenging it is to go up the stairs with a wheelchair. I recommend that you go with no extra load. It should be you and the wheelchair only.

how to get a disabled person down stairs in an emergency

Switch to Manual Mode

The best mode for navigating the stairs with a wheelchair is the manual mode. This is because manual wheelchairs are safer and more efficient for irregular terrains like a staircase. Using a motorized wheelchair to navigate stairs can be hazardous if you accidentally use the controllers.

You are at a higher risk of injuries and accidents when using a power wheelchair on stairs. All you need to do is to switch the power wheelchair to a manual mode until you have successfully navigated the stairs.

Related: How to Use Transfer Board from Wheelchair to Toilet

Use the Seatbelt

This is the point where you have to put your seat belt to use, even if you haven’t been making use of it. Although not all wheelchairs come with a seatbelt, it varies with the model and the manufacturers.

If yours has a seat belt, make sure to put it to good use. It is for your safety and nothing more.

Don’t Deflate the Tires

Deflating the tires of your wheelchair may look like a better option when going up and downstairs. It will require more effort to push a deflated wheelchair up and down stairs than it will with an inflated one.

Here’s how it works.

A deflated tire ends up putting more pressure on the ground surface, thereby increasing friction. Unfortunately, you will need more energy to overcome the friction and move the wheelchair up the stairs.

Make the Stairs Accessible

If you want to get up and down stairs without stress, you should make your staircase accessible. This means making it friendly for navigating a wheelchair.

By now, you are probably wondering how to make stairs accessible?

Keep reading, and you will find out.

Related: How to Easily Change a Diaper in a Wheelchair (Complete Guide)

How to Get a Wheelchair up Stairs

how to get a wheelchair up and down stairs

Start by backing the wheelchair and placing your stronger foot a step forward. Then, tilt the chair till you get a balance tilt point. Ensure that the rear wheels touch the ground, otherwise, keep adjusting the wheelchair until you attain an equilibrium.

Lift the wheelchair when you get to a step, making the rear wheels rest on the next step. Get the balance point for that step, then repeat the same process to ascend to the next step.

How to Get a Wheelchair down Stairs

Getting a wheelchair downstairs is a lot of work as getting a wheelchair upstairs. Regardless of the assistive technology you decide to use, extra care is needed to avoid injuries and accidents.

The first thing to do when transporting a person in a wheelchair is to pay attention to the stairs. Make sure the stairs are free of obstacles.

Wear shoes that fit and maintain a high level of focus. In all, your movements should be slow and steady.

Some assistive technology to get a wheelchair down a stair include grabbing rails, movable stairs rails, hardtail rails, and newel rails. This technology comes in handy and makes navigating the stairs easy and comfortable.

The Do’s and Don’ts of Getting a Wheelchair up and down Stairs

  • Don’t rush when navigating the stairs with a wheelchair
  • Clear all obstacles from the way
  • Be focused and avoid getting distracted
  • Don’t touch the removable features of the wheelchair
  • Switch your wheelchair to manual mode before getting upstairs
  • Use the seat belt and other safety features
  • Ask for assistance to make it easier
  • Use assistive technology if possible

Related: How far can an Electric Wheelchair Go? (Answered)

How to Make Your Stairs Accessible

Install Permanent Ramps and Divide Tracks

This is a good option if you will be using your wheelchair permanently or for a longer time; otherwise, you should go for the other options below. Ramp and divide tracks allow a wheelchair user to navigate stairs without depending on someone else easily.

The only downside to installing ramps and divide tracks is that they will alter the look of your home. But if that doesn’t bother you, it is a great option for making the stairs accessible.

Adopt Wheelchair Lift

Although this option is a little pricey, it’s effective for getting a wheelchair up and down the stairs. All you need to do is to install the lifts and position the person sitting on the wheelchair into the lift.

The good news is that you will find wheelchair lift options in many commercial institutions like banks, offices, and hotels. You may have to install one for yourself at home if you prefer it to other ways of making the stairs accessible.

Get Handrails

The handrails option is the most affordable way to make the stairs accessible. Once installed, the person sitting on the wheelchair can hold on to the rails as they navigate the stairs. The handrails option is best used for getting a manual wheelchair up and down the stairs.

Consider Chair Ramps

A chair ramp can only be used with a motorized wheelchair. This means that you cannot leverage this option if you use a manual wheelchair. You will find several affordable and portable chair ramps for easy navigating the stairs.

How to Get a Wheelchair Up and Down Stairs (Complete Guide)


My love for the disabled community started when I helped a blind man cross the road at around age 6. Fast forward to decades later, I became the caregiver of my grandma, who lost her ability to speak in her 90s. This blog helps me to produce helpful content that aligns with my passion.

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