In the words of Thomas Carlyle “Man is a tool-using animal. Without tools he is nothing, with tools he is all.”
And so I was encourged to see a blog post on BBC Ouch today highlighting the difficulties faced by wheelchair users trying to get ‘chairs that meets their needs in a timely fashion. As mentioned in the article, whilst the wrong wheelchair can cause health problems associated with posture and pressure sores, an incorrect ‘chair can also limit someone’s independence for example if it is too heavy or not set up correctly.
Regardless of whether a wheelchair user has the necessary skills, if they are expected to use a ‘chair that they do not have the physical strength to ‘pop’ a wheelie in, or to lift into a car, then their independence is inevitably limited, often leaving them reliant on assistance to compensate. I have often thought that this is a false economy for the NHS/government and I am grateful that I live in an area where my local wheelchair services have recognised that ‘needs’ do not just mean clinical needs but also, to a certain extent, social needs.
Today is International Wheelchair Day 2015, this is the 8th year of what has become an annual celebration “when wheelchair users celebrate the positive impact a wheelchair has on their lives”.
The day was started by Steve Wilkinson and his website explains that “the aims of International Wheelchair Day are:
- To enable wheelchair users to celebrate the positive impact a wheelchair has in their lives.
- To celebrate the great work of the many millions of people who provide wheelchairs, who provide support and care for wheelchair users and who make the World a better and more accessible place for people with mobility issues.
- To acknowledge and react constructively to the fact there are many tens of millions of people in the World who need a wheelchair, but are unable to acquire one.”
Yesterday I spent the day volunteering with Go Kids Go who provide wheelchair skills training to young wheelchair users. The difference that not only a wheelchair, but also the skills to use it, make to a disabled person’s life simply cannot be underestimated. Two words offerred by young people yesterday which have stuck in my mind are ‘independence’ but perhaps more importantly (especially for young people) ‘fun’!
There was also a child there yesterday who was recently able to start school only because Go Kids Go were able to loan them a suitable wheelchair. No wheelchair = no school. Although there are many people in other countries struggling due to a lack of wheelchairs, this is also a problem impacting people on our own doorstep in the UK and, for this child in particular, there is now another very important word, ‘education’.
Happy International Wheelchair Day!