Snowman in wheelchairWhile the environmentalists and climate change deniers battle it out over why last week’s polar vortex happened, we folks with SCI or similar disabilities need to focus on how to survive frigid temperatures. It’s not easy staying warm when you’re rolling around in a wheelchair in dangerously low temperatures. In fact, it can be a nightmare.

Since I’m from Minnesota, and thus know a little something about surviving the cold, I have my favorite ways to warm up — a hot shower, a feather comforter, my microwavable neck warmer, drinking hot water all day long and a face mask. Layering is another way I stay warm, although layering is sometimes difficult to do since I need help getting dressed.

Not walking means my legs get very cold. To keep them as warm as possible, I like to start with fleece-lined leggings, and then I put on another pair of cotton leggings that are a size bigger so they’re easier to pull on over the first pair. After that, if the temperatures are really cold, I’ll put on one more pair of leggings. Then I’ll put on a pair of flare-leg yoga pants, since they look cute at the ankle despite the three layers of leggings underneath. This may seem like a lot, but since I’m not walking, all of these layers really aren’t that constricting.

On my feet I wear the thickest socks I have, usually a knee-high knit, and then I put on the ultimate winter footwear — UGG boots. These boots are lined with sheepskin and are my secret weapon against the cold. My feet never get cold in these little miracles.

Back in the day when I was a kid and not disabled yet, I would wear snow pants. These things were the ultimate of ugly, but my mom forced me to wear them whenever I went outside in the winter. They worked — I never got cold in them. But I won’t lie, I haven’t put a pair of these on since 1998 when I last went bi-skiing (awesomely fun, by the way). I wish I liked them more — they would be a great weapon against the cold — but I just can’t bring myself to do it.

My question for all of you is this: How do you stay warm when it’s freezing cold outside? Have you bought some of the nouveau fabric being installed in winter gear that’s supposed to keep you warmer than anything else, even wool? Or do you keep it “old school” and hang out in front of a roaring fireplace?

Whatever you do, I wish all of you luck staying warm when you’re out and about. Heed this advice from a Minnesotan: Be safe, only go outside in sub-zero temps if you must, and if you do go out, remember to keep your phone on you at all times. I’ve had a couple of disabled friends get in some pretty scary situations because they didn’t bring their phone with them in the wintertime.