There are various recreational activities wheelchair users can engage in, including wheelchair ice skating.
Back when I started using a wheelchair, this was impossible. The thought of a wheelchair on an ice rink seemed dangerous and preposterous.
Not even the most wheelchair-accessible rinks would allow me on the ice in a wheelchair.
I’m proud to now say I’ve been on an ice-skating rink many times ever since, thanks to the numerous adaptive skating programs.
Here is all you need to know about wheelchair ice skating.
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- Wheelchair ice skating is possible with the help of experienced companion skaters.
- Adaptive program schedules allow wheelchair users to skate with special adaptive ice skating equipment.
- Winter facilities can have dedicated sessions for wheelchair users to skate in their wheelchairs and with their families.
- Always use a wheelchair in proper order during wheelchair skating
What is Wheelchair Ice Skating?
Wheelchair ice-skating is simply using your wheelchair to skate.
It is much like ice wheelchair dancing, as you can see from this video:
How does someone skate in a wheelchair, though?
The first way is to do it in their wheelchairs or try adaptive ice skating. One caveat is that the ice rinks need to either have dedicated wheelchair sessions or provide adaptive skating equipment.
You may be wondering if there is any special equipment you may need to enjoy some time on the ice rink.
Wheelchair Ice Skating Equipment
Skating in a wheelchair will need you to visit an ice rink with proper wheelchair access (1).
Such rinks allow wheelchair users to use a manual wheelchair or outdoor power wheelchair.
For my first experience skating in a wheelchair, I had a friend push me while he skated. He is an experienced skater; we both had our skating shoes on.
This video shows how it’s supposed to be
Some places have one of the rink staff do the pushing as family members skate as well. If you want such help, you must call ahead and plan for it.
You’ll also need the place to have accessible street parking to make it easy for you to disembark and access the ice rink.
Another thing that makes it possible to skate in a wheelchair is the presence of dedicated sessions for wheelchair users.
However, not all facilities offer this help to ensure wheelchair users can skate. Therefore it’s up to you to scout for suitable ice rinks.
A quick google search of wheelchair ice skating near me should help you locate suitable wheelchair facilities.
Some facilities will add the following to make it easy for wheelchairs to gain access to the ice rink:
- Wheelchair ramps at all entrances
- Handicap parking stalls
- Snow Ramps
Another form of ice skating for people with limited ability is adaptive ice skating. Is it the same as wheelchair ice skating?
What is Adaptive Ice Skating?
Adaptive ice skating is a unique experience combining the physical challenges of ice skating with adaptive equipment.
The goal is to enable individuals with limited mobility or no ability to walk or stand independently to participate in ice skating to have fun and enjoy the sport.
Wheelchair users who can stand or walk even for limited periods can try adaptive ice skating.
Here is what you need for adaptive skating.
1. Special Skating Equipment
You’ll need adaptive equipment if you want to skate in a wheelchair. Not all ice rinks can accommodate wheelchair users.
Here’s what you’ll need to skate in your wheelchair. The ice rink should provide the equipment.
- Adaptive Ice Skates (conventional skates won’t work for obvious reasons)
- Ice Sleds (Perfect for paralyzed skaters)
- Helmets for protection from falls
- Walkers for wheelchair users that can stand
Check out this video on adaptive ice skating techniques.
2. Dedicated Wheelchair User Sessions
Not all ice rinks allow people with physical disabilities to skate. However, some do have dedicated sessions.
Call the closest winter facilities to inquire if they have these sessions and adaptive skating programs.
Just as with any sports for wheelchair users, it is vital to take necessary precautions for your safety.
3 Safe Wheelchair Skating Techniques
Skating by itself is pretty dangerous, especially for the inexperienced. The danger is more when someone is in a wheelchair.
Here are some safety measures to ensure your wheelchair skating experience is safe.
1. Go With an Experienced Skater
An experienced skater can help a wheelchair user navigate an ice rink easily. That is true for users that have never skated before.
Some wheelchair users can wheel themselves in their manual wheelchairs. However, it will take someone a lot of strength to do that, never mind the cold biting into their hands.
2. Always Ask For Help Whenever Possible
The rink staff is there to help you if you have any issues. Therefore it makes sense to ask them for help whenever you need it.
Thankfully for many winter facilities with dedicated skate time, the staff are always on hand to help.
3. Use Proper Wheelchairs
Your wheelchair should be in good condition before you attempt to use it for skating. That will prevent accidents and help ensure you are as safe as possible.
If allowed to use an electric wheelchair, be sure you can control it well on the ice or have help.
Are Wheelchair Hockey and Wheelchair Skating the Same?
Wheelchair hockey and wheelchair skating aren’t the same. Hockey uses hockey sticks and requires the players to be capable wheelchair skaters.
Can I skate in a power wheelchair?
Yes, you can. However, it’s at the discretion of your winter facility. Some facilities only allow skating in manual wheelchairs or electric wheelchairs with the motors off.
Is there a weight limit for wheelchair ice skating?
There isn’t a weight limit for someone to do wheelchair skating. However, it would be best if you were self-aware of the weight of your wheelchair when skating.
Wheelchair ice skating is an excellent winter fun activity anyone in a wheelchair can try. You don’t have to stay home while the family enjoys an ice challenge.
The many accessible ice rinks throughout the country make it easier for a disabled person to enjoy the winter outdoors.
You might even become the following gravity-defying wheelchair user like Aaron Fotheringham (2).
If you were afraid of trying out wheelchair skating, then it’s time you let go of the fear.
Did you ever try wheelchair ice skating? Let us know how the experience was!
- 1. Wheelchair-accessible skating rink opens at Parc La Fontaine. Montreal. Published January 29, 2022. Accessed October 13, 2022. https://montreal.ctvnews.ca/wheelchair-accessible-skating-rink-opens-at-parc-la-fontaine-1.5760260
- 2. Bergeron R. Extreme athlete uses a wheelchair to defy gravity. CNN. Published November 17, 2017. Accessed October 13, 2022. https://edition.cnn.com/2017/11/17/health/turning-points-aaron-wheelz-fotheringham-extreme-sports/index.html