When it comes to wheelchairs, and mobility aids in general, it’s fair to say that the conversation can often be negative, particularly when led by non-disabled people. Once upon a time I shared the view that being in a wheelchair was one of the worse things that could happen to a person, I felt sorry for wheelchair users that passed me in the street. That’s internalised ableism for you.
As my health declined, and I found myself relying on mobility aids more myself, I began to see the other side of the coin. As many people with deteriorating conditions do, I fought using a wheelchair. I struggled on crutches for a long time before looking into using a wheelchair because society led me to believe that using a wheelchair was bad and a sign of giving up. Slowly though I started using a manual wheelchair for long distances, shopping trips etc and found myself wondering why I’d viewed this mobility aid so negatively. It was changing my life, allowing me to spend time with family and enjoy a life outside my home. Since then I’ve gone on to use a powerchair which has changed my life beyond what I had hoped.
Last year though my needs changed and my old powerchair was beginning to limit me. Through lack of NHS help I found myself having to fundraise to get a powerchair that would fit my needs and give me the best quality of life possible. Many of you supported me in this, sharing my GoFundMe link and donating what you could. At the start of the fundraising I was sure it would take potentially a whole year to raise the funds, over £10,000, but the whole process from start, to me receiving the new powerchair, was barely 6 months. I’ve now had my new powerchair for nearly a month and it still hasn’t sunk in. I wonder if it ever will.
What I do know though is that my life has already changed for the better. I’m able to spend time with family without worrying about getting home to lie down to relieve my chronic pain. I’m able to accept more invitations to speak at events and within the media about the disability activism I’m so passionate about. I’m able to start living like a 20 year old again. I’m independent and in control of my life now, instead of my chronic pain dictating when and for how long I can go out.
I’ve already made some amazing memories, including finally being able to take my Mum to see Les Miserables in London recently. She’s wanted to go for as long as I can remember, and I’ve always promised I’d take her but it wasn’t possible with my old powerchair. So, when I got the estimated delivery date for my new powerchair I booked us tickets and we went last month. She cried from start to finish and I am so grateful that through the kindness of strangers I’ve been able to make precious memories like that.
The small things are just as important though. My powerchair has a rise function that lifts me up 10 inches, putting me at eye level with people standing, I can even drive at 3mph like that! Socially it has endless benefits, people actually walk into me because they don’t look down and I’m forever getting neck ache from looking up at everyone. It also enables me to be more independent though as now I can reach high shelves in shops with ease and no longer have to leave a restaurant or bar because the only available seats are bar height. Powerchairs aren’t just about getting from A to B, it’s about quality of life, independence and having all the tools to live your best life.
I’m so excited to see where this year takes me now I have a powerchair that fits my needs and my body. So many doors are already opening!
Images by Fordtography: http://www.