Do you call them bars or wheels?
What do wheelchair anti-tip wheels do?
Just to clarify. In this piece, anti-tip wheels, anti-tip bars, or safety bars – I refer to as anti-tip wheels. They are an optional feature to wheelchairs to prevent the wheelchair from tipping backwards.
What makes you safe in your wheelchair?
Do wheelchair anti-tippers make you safe? Wheelchair anti-tip wheels can help prevent the wheelchair from tipping backwards. However, the wheelchair can still tip whether there are anti-tipper wheels, on or not, which can cause potential injury to the user.
Understanding how a wheelchair responds to the energy the user puts into it, knowing what to do, how to react if the chair starts to overbalance can help prevent the wheelchair from tipping backwards.
Do I need anti-tip wheels on a wheelchair?
This is a personal choice; if someone feels unsafe using the wheelchair without them, then yes, get anti-tippers. But they do hinder the ability to get the wheelchair up and down kerbs quickly, and they will cause more complications when breaking down the wheelchair to stow it in a car.
How do they work?
Anti-tip wheels work by preventing the wheelchair from tipping back. Leaving the user lying on their back, looking at the stars. As the front of the wheelchair lifts, these rear wheels come into contact with the ground, thus preventing the tipping motion of the wheelchair to go any further back. But, this is not guaranteed.
These prevention wheels usually come with different position settings. These positions dictate how high the user will be able to lift the front of the wheelchair. Setting anti-tippers close to the ground will result in the front of the wheelchair only being slightly raised. If they are on the floor, then the font of the wheelchair WILL NOT be able to be lifted. Set them high then the front will become easier to lift.
Are they worth getting? Pros and cons
Choosing to get anti-tip wheels will affect the ability to do wheelchair skills. For one, the capability to mount a kerb is affected. The anti-tip wheels can catch as the front of the wheelchair is lifted. Potentially grounding the wheelchair. Kerb descent will also be hindered by not being able to raise the front of the wheelchair high enough. In order to balance on the rear wheels. The centre of gravity (COG) will be challenging to control.
Rough terrain will be more brutal to negotiate, and these extras add extra weight to the chariot. Stowing the chair in a car is more difficult as well. Removing the anti-tip wheels will take more time and create challenges explaining they need removing to a taxi driver or friend assisting the end-user.
But without them
The wheelchair looks sleeker. Easier to get in and out of the car. There is more control climbing and dropping of kerbs. Back Wheel Balance (BWB) is more manageable, thus helping over rough terrain and down ramps. Wheelchair skills are easier.
The COG is significantly influenced how easily the front of the wheelchair can be lifted by the user, even without considering the positioning of wheelchair anti-tip bars.
Some sports wheelchairs use anti-tip wheels that are nearly in contact with the ground all the time. If the player reaches high and back to catch a basketball or rugby ball, take a shot, or hit a powerful long shot in wheelchair tennis, these wheels are critical for maintaining an upright position.
Anti-tip wheel working playing wheelchair rugby.