Tag Archives: Wheelchairs

How My Wheelchair Gave Me Independence

When you have a disability, there are two types of assistive devices, those you need in order to function and those you want because they make life a little easier. The items that fall into ‘need’ vs ‘want’ kind of depends on your level of disability. Personally, I see nothing wrong with using both kinds of devices regularly. However, growing up I did feel a lot of pressure from my parents, therapists, and even strangers to only use what was absolutely needed, not what made things easier. This pressure seems to come from the belief that the fewer assistive devices you need, the more independent you will be. While this makes sense in theory, in practice nothing could be further from the truth.

Growing up I used crutches to get around; long distances, short distances, at school, where ever I went I was crutching it. For years my teachers had to excuse me from class early (with a friend in case I fell) in order for me to make it to the next class on time. I was always lagging behind other students, more often than not, by the

time I got somewhere my classmates were already moving on to the next destination. My closest friends developed a habit of walking slow; in fact, to this day one of my childhood friends still gets teased for being a slow poke.

Crutches were all I knew, so I never complained. I never asked my parents for a wheelchair because I didn’t know I could. I could walk; people that can walk don’t use wheelchairs. However, in high school my shoulders started to hurt from walking with crutches. My Physical Therapist thought it was tendinitis and suggested that I get

a wheelchair. My parents agreed to this recommendation, but on the condition that it be used only for school.

So in eleventh grade I got my first wheelchair. With this new mode of getting around I discovered two things; just because you don’t need something, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use it, and that a wheelchair doesn’t mean less independence, it means more. With my wheelchair I was able to get to class on time, I had no more embarrassing falls, I didn’t have to sweat all day in tacky snow boots and I could carry my own lunch at school. Seeing how much more independence I gained from my wheelchair helped convince my parents to get me a power chair for college.

I have never experienced more independence than I did during those four years at college thanks to my power chair; I excelled both academically and socially. Sometimes it isn’t just about what you need; sometimes it’s about what is easier. I know there are people who see me walk out of my chair and probably wonder why I am in a chair if I can stand. But I don’t let it bother me anymore. I am just living the best life I know how; if that means using a chair, drinking from straws, training my dog to pull my socks off for me, and letting my husband carry me up the stairs, well then, so be it.

A First Aid Kit for an UNlimited Life

Working at a Center for Independent Living definitely had its perks. The bathroom mirrors were low enough that I could actually see in them while in my chair and there were plenty of handicap spots in which to park. I was also one of many people that used a wheelchair instead of the only one. Being one of many had its own set of perks, most notably, I could go to my boss or a co-worker when I needed a minor adjustment made to my chair.

At my new job, none of these things are available. I have to advocate for myself in order to get the accommodations I need. I have also had to learn how to cope with things I didn’t think much of before; such as those higher mirrors or minor adjustments I might need for my chair. So, of course, today the screw came out of the brake on my wheelchair. It has been loose for weeks, but I kept forgetting to fix it. As luck would have it, I was transferring out of my chair to use the bathroom today and it came off in my hand.

When I got back to my office and showed it to my new boss, he asked if I was going to need to leave in order to get it fixed. Although this was a nice option, the idea filled me with dread. In order to get my chair repaired at Wheelchair Seating I would have to call for an appointment, then a taxi, (making sure to request the taxi an hour before your appointment was scheduled to be sure I made on time) get to the appointment, wait to be seen, wait some more while they fix it, call another taxi to retrieve me and then wait for them to show up. Suddenly, that 5 minute fix would become a two hour (or more) adventure in Boredom-land. There was no way I was going to let one little screw, screw up my day.

Luckily for me I have this handy Allen Wrench set that I keep in my back pack, along with my other emergency essentials. Most wheelchair parts are held on by screws that take various sizes of Allen Wrenches; so this handy little set allows me to fix majority of the loose screws and make minor adjustments on my own. I have had it since my college years, when my wheelchair repair guy was more than two hours away, and it has saved the day on more than one occasion. Today, I put my handy little kit to the test for the first time on my own, (I always had someone around to help me before) and I am happy to report that my brake has been re-attached and is once again fully functional.

Though I would never attempt a major repair on my chair on my own, for fear of making it worse, going to Wheelchair Seating for a loose screw is like going to the doctor for a Band-aid. This little kit allows me to address those minor tune-ups on my own, as opposed to always going to a professional. It’s like a first aid kit for my wheelchair.

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