I have a lot of interest from people about my wheelchair and although I get a bit huffy if strangers ask me “how fast does it go then?” as an opening liner – I did think it would be nice to do a Q&A for those who are interested or are thinking about getting a wheelchair in the future. Obviously just to point out this is my experience and other wheelchair users may not think/have the same as me! So I asked on Twitter and I got so many questions – so thank you if you tweeted me! I’ve tried to include as many as I could. So here we go…
What is the brand model/did you have to pay and why did you go for that chair?
My wheelchair is a Permobil C500 and honestly it’s very very expensive. I can’t remember the full price but it was something like £22,000. Yep. I’m not joking. When I was younger I would get my wheelchairs from the local wheelchair services but they had to medically assess what you “needed” rather than wanted. They would fund the chair for me at that time but the chair would be about half the price of mine now. As I got older I decided I wanted more functions such as electric footrest and drive-from wheelchair (as in, in a car). So that’s why I went from local to private when I was around 18. In terms of paying for this, I was very very lucky that I applied for funding with The Brittle Bone Society who help members raise money for wheelchairs. I will be eternally grateful to them. You may see that a lot of people crowdfund for their chairs and that’s because as you can see they’re expensive but also not every local service provides the same service/funding.
When I was younger, I naively thought that seating was all the same. It really isn’t. If you imagine, some people use their wheelchairs pretty much all day so seating is so important. I had a really tough year at uni when my chair broke down, so I used a back up I bought on ebay and I still have damage and pains from that year. The seat was basically like a plastic car seat and had no support whatsoever. So getting a comfortable chair for you is necessary. For me, I needed good support for my hips and to be able to recline when needed.
Challenges/restrictions/buses and hills
There are definitely challenges, but not because being disabled is “hard” as such (obviously there are highs and lows as anyone has) more because the world doesn’t really think about wheelchair users naturally. People asked about the following things specifically:
Buses : they’re ok in principle when it all goes smoothly, the buses in the UK are narrow but the main issue is that there’s usually only one wheelchair space. Sometimes I’ve had bus drivers not move non-disabled people out of the way which can be stressful. When it goes right though, buses are one of my fave transportation because it’s so simple.
Hills : I don’t mind going up hills and my wheelchair is pretty good with them, but going down is SCARY. I usually go backwards as I always think, if I fall I’d rather be looking at the sky lol
Kerbs : My number one bug bear. Kerbs aren’t really thought about that much but honestly they can make or break your day. Sometimes when I go somewhere new, I’ve had to divert for up to 20 minutes to find low kerbs to get to my destination. In terms of my chair getting up them, it doesn’t really climb that much of a step so it’s really important to have these to access paths safely.
Is it secretly fun or a pain in the ass?
It’s definitely not a pain but it’s also not that fun either ha. I suppose it’s just an aid to me to get around and actually something I don’t consciously think about everyday – I just use it, just like you would a pair of glasses or something. Don’t get me wrong, when I’d go ‘out out’ and I’d spin round with mi hazards on that was fun but I think that’s just the night out really.
Is it easy to remove/replace batteries?
Not for me in particular, I’m sure it could be done but the batteries are within the depths of the chair which would need screws etc (I’m v mechanical as you can hear). In order to charge it, it’s a wall charger that I plug in overnight about every other night. Kind of like you would with your phone.
What are the most helpful things ambulant people can do?
For people who don’t use wheelchairs I think it’s really helpful to remind yourself that everyone’s journey is different. If you offer to help, that person could have done what they’re doing for years and have got it down. Or someone may be relatively new and be nervous about navigating a chair. I wrote a previous blog post about the best ways to offer help to disabled people. The best thing people can do, I think, is connect with the person in the chair on a genuine level. You’ll then find out what kind of (probably amazing and really funny) person we really are.
Thank you to everyone who sent in a question, I tried to include as many as I could. If you have any more – feel free to add a comment below and I could do a part two! Also let me know your experience with your wheelchair, how do you feel about it? I know it’s different for everyone.
Thanks again to Millercare for sponsoring this blog post!