Answered: how to open and close a wheelchair?

opening or closing your wheelchair when you are in the hospital or rehab seems tough especially if you have never used a wheelchair before. But you can ask your physical therapist to help you in opening or closing your wheelchair. He/she can help you if you need to transfer your wheelchair too.

A wheelchair is a device that helps people who have mobility issues to move from one place to another. These people may have had surgery, injuries or might be suffering from illness. In case you have a spinal injury, stroke you might experience paralysis which will lead to a weakness that will make you need a wheelchair for your mobility aid.

Types of Wheelchairs

A wheelchair has four wheels and a seat that is attached to the frame. The back wheels are usually bigger having rims that you can use to push the chair forward or backward as well as make turns. There are several varieties of wheelchairs that include electrical and non-electrical (manual) wheelchairs.

Electrical wheelchairs are those that can be propelled with a motor. You can maneuver a manual wheelchair using a joystick or remote control. Normally electric wheelchairs are usually heavy as they are installed with different components such as a motor, power battery, etc.

Manual wheelchairs are the common wheelchairs that can be moved at a push of your hand by turning the rims that are attached to the back wheels. Or an assistant can help to push the wheelchair by holding the handles that are on the back of the wheelchair. Normally manual wheelchairs are easily folded to allow easy storage and transportation.

The wheelchair has several moving parts that make folding and unfolding a challenging task. But you can still fold and unfold a wheelchair by following these instructions as most of the wheelchairs are alike and we do hope that these steps will work on most of them.

Opening Your Wheelchair

  1. Make sure that your wheelchair is on a flat solid surface.
  2. Check to see if the brakes are locked as you wouldn’t want your wheelchair to move away from you once you open it. Each wheelchair has a lever that enables the user to lock the wheels.
  3. Hold the seat of your wheelchair with one hand in the front while the other hand holds the back.
  4. Push the seat down to the center of the seat and this will cause the sides and wheels of your wheelchair to slide apart from each other.
  5. Keep pushing the seat all the way down until it is fully opened.
  6. When done, you can now use your wheelchair but you will have to recheck the brake lock in order to be sure that the brakes are locked before you sit on it.

Closing Your Wheelchair

  1. Check to be sure that the brakes are locked
  2. Hold the seat of the wheelchair with one hand at the front while the other at the back.
  3. Slowly pull the seat up and the seat will fold in half causing the wheels to move closer to each other.
  4. Fully raise the seat in the center and thus the wheelchair will be fully folded up and ready for storage or transportation.

In case you still have any questions or problems when it comes to opening or closing your wheelchair, then you can contact your physical therapist.


A manual wheelchair has many unfamiliar parts that can make the folding and unfolding process seem difficult. It is normal when you have no experience and you have never done the process before. But by following the above steps you will be able to safely fold and unfold your wheelchair for safe storage and transportation.

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