Paula Moulton talks about the importance of having the right wheelchair.
I have a really funky device that enables me to be me. No, it’s not horrifically expensive and it’s not a technological wonder of science, but I’m really lucky to have it because I’m aware that not everyone in the UK is so fortunate. So what’s the simple device? It’s the right wheelchair.
My wheels give me independence. I’m lucky; where I live my wheelchair provider is very good. I have wheels that meet my need, the needs of those supporting me and my need to be as independent as possible. The service understands my life. As a result I can do my own shopping, I can volunteer, I can be a dancer, I can compete for Team GB, I can be a role model. In real terms the world is open to me.
That was brought home to me a couple of weeks ago in Frankfurt airport when the authorities managed to lose my chair and with it my most treasured possession – my independence. Yes, they gave me a temporary chair but that wasn’t right and it hurt me. Fortunately, it was only temporary but it was a nasty shock. Separate me from my wheels and I’m suddenly turned into a dependent person again, my independence is removed. I can’t be me.
Since having the right wheels, my care needs have reduced vastly. I’m more active, I’ve taken up sport and I’m healthier. My physical disability has not improved – if anything it’s worse – but because I’ve had the right wheels at the right time my life has continued at the same crazy pace.
I remember being prescribed my first powered wheels. It was hard to get around, but boy I did it and it opened up my world! Buses, trains, trams, living on my own – independence was no longer fiction. I vividly recall the first time I went on a bus on my own – it was amazing. I had my life back.
Independence is a basic need. My wheelchair services in South Manchester do their utmost to make sure that I am kept as independent as possible. With the right set of wheels, I don’t need care from social services. I can live on my own, confident that if my need changes wheelchair services will support me. They want to keep me independent – it makes sense to them and it costs far less to the NHS. I just wish that every wheelchair services thought like them. The simple fact is my wheels are my independence.