MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Snow-covered, icy streets can get the best of even the heartiest Minnesotan. Almost all of us have stumbled or had a hard time trudging through fresh snowfall.
But winter weather poses an especially difficult challenge for people who use wheelchairs. The snow makes it difficult to maneuver and steer, and it can be so limiting that many people lower their activity level, dramatically.
A new product called, Wheelblades, is designed to improve winter mobility for wheelchair users.
Sam and Tracy Tabaka, of Rogers, Minn., have never allowed their wheelchairs to hold them back.
“We both enjoy marathons and triathlons and all sorts of fun, outdoor stuff,” said Tracy Tabaka.
But every winter, the everyday becomes a challenge.
Front wheels on a wheelchair have a tendency to sink in the snow, making moving or even staying in the chair difficult.
“There’s a lot of tipping yourself back and jumping over piles of snow,” Tracy Tabaka said.
“I’ve taken many spills,” Sam Tabaka added.
Now, Wheelblades help eliminate the seasonal obstacle. The Takabas are the first Minnesotans to try them out.
“It’s a huge difference, just for comfort and feeling secure,” Tracy Tabaka said.
The Wheelblades are small skis that attach to the front wheels, allowing the wheelchair user to glide easily through the snow.
It functions the same way as snow shoes, spreading weight over a greater surface, allowing wheels to glide more easily.
“We spend however many months out of the year with snow in Minnesota, and…this is a huge thing,” Tracy Tabaka said.
The Tabakas say the biggest impact the new device has is in their daily routine. Simple tasks that once took time and energy have never been easier.
“It definitely allows me to be more independent,” Sam Tabaka said. “It’s definitely changed my outlook on what I can do in winter on my own.”
Wheelblades have been very popular overseas and are just starting to hit the market here in the U.S. The inventor is a quadriplegic who didn’t want a snowy climate to limit his activity.
They cost $365 a pair and are sold online here.