Wheelchair Restraint Regulations You Must Know

Wheelchair Restraint Regulations You Must Know

It is quintessential for a caregiver, nursing professional or a family member of a wheelchair user to know the latest wheelchair restraint regulations in North America. 

Needless to mention, the regulations can be applied elsewhere on the planet as well. The goal here is to ensure the safety, comfort, and general well-being of a wheelchair occupant. 

Knowing the wheelchair restraint regulations is a must if the condition of your loved one or a patient is severe, and as a result, they are going to be wheelchair-bound for the rest of their life. 

They may not be able to read up on this subject on their own. It is you who must take the lead and grasp the safety rules set by medical professionals. 

If you are looking for a wheelchair for a dementia patient, do check out this post. Also, make sure you check out the free resources (research papers) shared further in this post.

Here Are the Most Essential Wheelchair Restraint Regulations

#1 Make sure the patient has an opportunity to free themselves from the restraint

According to a document published by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, a patient has the right to free themselves at will. As a caregiver or a nurse, you must make sure that the patient does not feel trapped or helpless at any point. 

Needless to mention, in certain situations, you must tighten the screws to keep the patient in place. Especially when the immediate physical safety of the patient or a staff member is at risk. Apart from that, keep the restraints loose and comfortable. 

#2 Ask the patient before adopting a new restraining method

Before you go ahead and purchase the newest wheelchair lap belt or similar medical equipment, make sure you take the needs and desires of the patient into consideration. 

If the patient is capable of communicating rationally, talk to them about what makes them get out of the wheelchair abruptly. Find out the thing that is bothering them. Pick the right restraining equipment only after you have all the information in hand.

#3 Place the latch close to the patient’s hands

Physical restraint belts can also lead to asphyxial deaths. According to a report by the Department of Rehabilitation Science & Technology, the University of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, incorrect use of physical restraint equipment can lead to long-term complications and indirect adverse effects.  

A massive number of patients living in nursing homes lose their lives as a result of strangulation due to physical restraint belts. Most people die while being restrained to a wheelchair or a bed. 

The same report also states that placing the latch close to a mentally unstable patient may lead to further injury. In this case, it is advised to keep them under supervision. Also, the physical restraint belt should only be used for a limited number of hours a day.


These are the three main wheelchair restraint regulations every caregiver or a family member of a wheelchair user must know. 

By the way, the Rehabilitation Engineering & Assistive Technology Society of North America (RESNA) has a useful resource on this subject. Click here to gain access to the free booklet provided by RESNA. I don’t work for RESNA, just sharing as I thought it would be useful. 

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