The Apple Watch: Wheelchair Mode

2019 is the best year yet for wheelchair users. Why is that?  Because of the advances in technology. As technology keeps improving and is more accessible to the consumer, it can provide more independence for anyone with a disability. You may have heard of the company Apple, and if you haven’t, you live under a rock. Apple has many accessibility settings that you can use on iPhones, computers, and iPads. My favorite Apple device not only is the iPhone, but the Apple Watch. The funny thing is I rarely use the watch for time. Instead, I track my fitness goals, because it is very important for a quadriplegic to stay healthy. I also use it for calls or texts.  It’s so convenient when I drop my phone or when there is an emergency, the watch is right on my wrist.  

For this article, I want to talk in depth about working out with the Apple Watch but also living your daily life.  

What I love about the Apple Watch is that you can accommodate the watch to the way you move.  In my case, the way I move is with a wheelchair.  Through the activity app and workout app, you can adjust it to the wheelchair mode.  

Activity App 

In the Activity app, every day you have three rings and the goal is to close each ring. The rings represent three activities: Stand, Exercise, and Move. The Stand ring encourages you to get up and stand instead of sitting all day. The Exercise ring calculates the minutes you are active. The Move ring calculates the calories burned through movement. About every hour, the watch will remind you to be active. 

If you are a wheelchair user, turn on wheelchair mode! Instead of using the Stand ring, it can be switched to the Roll mode which encourages you to roll or stretch every hour. The other cool thing about this watch is that the sensors are configured to distinguish different surface types for the Exercise and Move goals. For example, pushing on an incline or performing a transfer into the bed. These daily tasks will calculate your movement by the end of the day.  

If you use a power chair, don’t worry about rolling (unless pushing a joystick is difficult for you, then it could still be a good exercise). Since I typically use a power chair, there’s no need push a chair because it’s just a joystick. So instead I modified my Roll goal to an arm exercise. Instead of pushing, I stretch during this activity or do a simple arm work out against gravity. 

Workout App 

This app functions better if you’re a manual chair user. The workout app measures your movement through the sensors and sets goals based on time, distance, or calories. For the wheelchair mode, the workouts are “outdoor wheelchair walk pace” and “outdoor wheelchair run pace”. Once you choose a workout, the sensors will be activated. If you have weak arm mobility, you could mimic this movement with or without weights. I have shoulder, bicep, and wrist extension function. With this function, I can strap ankle weights to my wrists. Ankle weights will provide resistance as you mimic a push in your chair.  

Side note: When I’m at physical therapy, depending on the exercise, I will check my heart rate. Especially if I’m lightheaded and about to pass out!  

Daily life 

For my daily life, I like to use my Apple Watch for checking phone calls and text messages, but it is also a safety measure. Since I have impaired hand function, I drop items a lot. One of those items is my phone. As a sense of safety and security, I like to use my watch in case my phone is dropped and there’s an emergency. I’ve run into this problem multiple times and my watch is there to help every time. All you need to do is tap on the button to activate Siri and give her the commands. From day to day, you can set reminders, a calendar event, or get directions to a location. You can adjust thermostats, play your music or even start a podcast through your watch. With the Apple Watch Series 3 and 4, if you have cellular, you’re able to perform these tasks when you’re away from your iPhone.  

Side note: You may need help putting the watch on, but once it is, you are set for the day! After 10-18 hours, which depends on your watch series, you will need to charge your battery. 

If you did or didn’t know about the wheelchair accommodations for the Apple Watch, please share this article!  

If you are dropping your phone and have financial obstacles, a cheap solution might be a Bandi. Click here for more information.

2 thoughts on “The Apple Watch: Wheelchair Mode

  1. Mrunmaiy Abroal says:

    Thanks for sharing the tips. I am also a quadriplegic. But I do propel my active wheelchair once in the evening for an hour. When I am propelling, I usually activate an app called runmetre on my phone. It tracks the distance and time taken. The calories are not accurate, because I have chosen the walking mode. I didn’t have much reason to buy a Apple Watch till now. But worth considering after reading your blog.


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