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How to Fold a Wheelchair

When it comes to the seemingly basic act of folding and unfolding a wheelchair, it is crucial to recognize the immense impact it can have on individuals with limited mobility. Learning the correct method for folding a wheelchair can greatly improve the convenience of transporting and storing the device. 

In this article, we will provide a step-by-step guide on how to fold a wheelchair correctly to ensure ease of use and efficiency. Whether you are a caregiver, healthcare professional, or wheelchair user, mastering this skill is crucial for daily living. Stay tuned to learn the proper technique for folding a wheelchair.

Let’s get started to discuss how to fold a wheelchair.

Understanding Your Wheelchair

Before diving into the folding process, it’s crucial to familiarize yourself with the specific features and mechanisms of your wheelchair. Wheelchair designs can vary significantly, and understanding how your wheelchair functions will make the folding process smoother. 

Take note of any locking mechanisms, levers, or buttons that are integral to the folding process. Most manual wheelchairs are designed with a folding mechanism, but the exact method can vary depending on the make and model. Here are some common components you should know:

  • Seat and Backrest: The main seating area and the support for your back.
  • Armrests: Provide support for your arms.
  • Footrests: Where you place your feet, often detachable.
  • Wheels: The large rear wheels and smaller front caster wheels.
  • Brakes:  Keep the wheelchair stationary when engaged.

Step-by-Step Guide to Folding a Wheelchair:

Clear the Area

Before attempting to fold the wheelchair, ensure that the surrounding area is clear of obstacles. This includes removing loose items or obstructions that may hinder the folding process.

Position the Wheelchair

Start by positioning the wheelchair on a flat surface, preferably with ample space around it. Lock the brakes to prevent any movement during the folding process.

Remove Cushions and Accessories

If your wheelchair is equipped with cushions or additional wheelchair accessories, such as side guards or footrests, remove them before folding. This will streamline the folding process and prevent any damage to the accessories.

Collapse the Backrest

Begin folding the wheelchair by collapsing the backrest. Depending on the design of your wheelchair, this may involve releasing a lever or pushing a button to fold the backrest forward.

Fold the Footrests

Next, fold the footrests upward towards the seat of the wheelchair. Many wheelchairs feature footrests that can be swung to the side or removed entirely for easier folding.

Collapse the Armrests

If your wheelchair has armrests, collapse them by lifting them upward or pressing a release button, depending on the design. Ensure that the armrests are securely folded to avoid any protrusions during transportation.

Engage Folding Mechanism

Once the backrest, footrests, and armrests are folded, locate the folding mechanism of your wheelchair. This may involve pulling a lever or pressing buttons located near the frame of the wheelchair. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully to ensure proper folding.

Secure the Folded Wheelchair

After folding the wheelchair, ensure that it is securely locked in its folded position. Double-check the folding mechanism and any locking mechanisms to prevent the wheelchair from unfolding during transportation.

Troubleshooting Common Issues

Folding a wheelchair can sometimes present challenges. Here are some common issues and how to address them:

The Wheelchair Won’t Fold

  • Check for Obstructions: Ensure that there are no objects blocking the folding mechanism.
  • Review the Manual: Refer to the user manual for specific instructions and troubleshooting tips.

The Footrests are Stuck

Lubricate the Hinges: Apply a small amount of lubricant to the hinges to ease movement.

Check for Damage: Inspect the footrests for any signs of damage that may be causing them to stick.

The Wheels Won’t Align

  • Adjust the Brakes: Ensure that the brakes are fully disengaged before attempting to fold the wheelchair.
  • Inspect the Wheels: Check for any debris or damage that may be preventing the wheels from aligning properly.

Tips for Folding Different Types of Wheelchairs

Not all wheelchairs are created equal, and some models may have unique features or mechanisms. Here are a few tips for folding different types of wheelchairs:

Lightweight Wheelchairs

Lightweight wheelchairs are designed for easy transport and typically have simpler folding mechanisms. Follow the basic steps outlined above, but be mindful of any additional features specific to your model.

Heavy-Duty Wheelchairs

Heavy-duty wheelchairs are built for durability and may require a bit more effort to fold. Ensure that you follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully and seek assistance if needed.

Transport Wheelchairs

Transport wheelchairs are designed for short trips and are usually lightweight and easy to fold. These models often have smaller wheels and may include additional folding points. Refer to the user manual for specific instructions.

Storing Your Folded Wheelchair

Once your wheelchair is folded, it’s important to store it properly to maintain its condition and functionality. Here are some storage tips:

  • Keep it Dry: Store your wheelchair in a dry place to prevent rust and corrosion.
  • Avoid Extreme Temperatures: Extreme heat or cold can damage the materials and components of your wheelchair.
  • Use a Cover:  If possible, use a cover to protect your wheelchair from dust and debris.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q1. How Do I Start Folding My Wheelchair?

To begin folding your wheelchair, ensure that it is on a flat surface and that the brakes are engaged. This will keep the wheelchair stable while you work on folding it.

Q2. What Should I Do With the Footrests?

Before folding, make sure to lift and swing the footrests to the sides or remove them if possible. This will make the folding process smoother and prevent any damage.

Q3. How Do I Collapse the Seat?

To collapse the seat, locate the seat handles or the center of the seat fabric. Pull up firmly but gently. The seat should fold upwards, bringing the sides of the wheelchair together.

Q4. Are There Any Specific Safety Precautions I Should Follow?

Yes, always ensure that your fingers are clear of any moving parts to avoid pinching or injury. Additionally, make sure the wheelchair is fully folded and locked into place before transporting it.

Q5. How Can I Ensure My Wheelchair is Properly Folded?

Once folded, check that the wheelchair is compact and secure. If your model has locking mechanisms, engage them to keep the wheelchair in its folded position. This will make it easier and safer to carry or store.


Mastering the art of folding a wheelchair is a valuable skill for wheelchair users and caregivers alike. By following the step-by-step guide outlined above and familiarizing yourself with your wheelchair’s specific features, you can ensure safe and efficient transportation of your wheelchair wherever you go.

Remember to always prioritize safety and proper handling to maintain the longevity of your wheelchair and facilitate seamless mobility.