# Dead mans brake on a hand-pushed wheelchair

Would it be possible to install a dead-mans brake on a wheelchair?

I have been calling around and wheelchairs do not seem to come with a dead-mans brake. With that i mean the brake found on airport trolleys: you let go the trolley stops.

The problem that needs to be solved is that we are often pushing a grown man on a steep hill. If the person pushing the wheelchair were to stumble and release the chair, it would probably end in death as the road is not only steep, it is also full of bends and has irresponsible, speeding cars and buses.

Would it be possible to install one made from off-the-shelf parts?

But this is part of a set of small wheels, i'm not sure if that would be the right solution. If i replace the front wheels with this braking pair, would the chair not flip over?

• Locking the small front wheels feels wrong in so many ways. Modify the large wheels (where the normal manual brakes are). May 10, 2019 at 12:52
• Wheelchairs with hub brakes that are activated by the carer already exist - why not design a modification that uses a spring to keep that lever activated by default, and you have to pull a second lever on a pivot to fight the spring and release the break, in order to push the chair? May 12, 2019 at 20:21
• Would it be possible? ... almost always has a yes answer Mar 11, 2022 at 5:34

You could have a spring loaded brake acting on the rear wheels, released only when the push handles are pushed, and bent down, like many airport carts. But in this case with light cables transferring the controls from the brakes to the push handles.

One would need to attach a pair of balance legs to stabilize the chair from flipping back, to the back of the chair like this photo. This chair already has attendant breaks with lock, but they engage when pulled.

• Fancy testing that backwards, downhill... Crash helmet anyone? May 10, 2019 at 15:13
• You mention "a pair of balance legs" but actually a headrest and slightly longer push handles might do the trick. May 10, 2019 at 22:27

If you have the brake on the front wheels then even if they lock - it will probably slide backwards.

If you have a dead-man (dead-person for the politically correct...) brake, then if it comes on suddenly - which is what they tend to do, then the chair will probably go over backwards.

You would need to make sure the centre of gravity with the person in the chair is sufficiently far forward of the rear axle to prevent this tipping, BUT this may be more of a disadvantage as the person in the chair may balance on the rear wheels to avoid obstacles in tight spaces...

Interesting issue and I have pushed a friend many many miles in a wheelchair... His party trick is to balance on the rear wheels only...

• I wonder if there might be a neat anti-tip solution that also doubles as a sort of control on the brake. Goal would be to brake less (allow slip) if the chair is at risk of tipping. Would allow for tricks since tilt would control brakes. definitely tough to come up with...
– Abel
Mar 11, 2022 at 12:15

I would use an active baking system that disengages while actively used. Think of a bicycle brake being applied to release deadbolt / ratchet and allow free rotation of wheels.

The problems with such a system are that you need to consider the friction required to slow and then stop the wheelchair safely. A dead stop engaging mechanism would be horribly dangerous whereas a spring loaded energy absorption collar would certainly be requisite in the design.

Several manufacturers make "hill climbers" or "Grade Aids" which prevents the chair from rolling backwards when the the occupant is not gripping the hand rim. It is a one-way cam system, very simple, but only works in one direction. See order form for a Quickie 2 Sunrise Medical: https://www.sunrisemedical.com/getattachment/f1e0a762-b04c-4fb7-b0fa-da9613236bbd/manual-wheelchairs-Quickie-folding-wheelchairs-Quickie-2-Documents-Order-Forms-Quickie-2-Order-Form-2022.aspx

• Useless then if the wheelchair is going downhill, unless you are suggesting they go down backwards... Mar 11, 2022 at 6:02