International Wheelchair Day
Updated: Jan 24, 2019
A blog post that those close to me have been waiting for, and what better time to share it than International Wheelchair Day!
As some of you may know, last year my friends, family and colleagues were generous enough to support me in fundraising for a fabulous new wheelchair. The idea came about at the Mobility Roadshow; I was there exhibiting with Tourism for All (TFA), telling visitors all about how TFA can help them to find the confidence to take a holiday. I’ve been to loads of roadshows and exhibitions over the years, and one thing always sneaks up on me… wheelchair envy!
Finding the right wheelchair
At this show in particular, we happened to be staying in the same hotel as the team from GBL Wheelchairs (the hotel was Whittlebury Hall, which is fabulous, and very accessible). A chat with the GBL guys over a drink or two resulted in a demo of some wheelchairs on their stand the next day, and I fell in love with the Panthera U3.
Something that had always been missing from my life was a wheelchair with flexibility. A chair that I could use in manual or battery powered modes, transport in a car without the use of a hoist, use in towns and countryside, and most importantly a chair that fitted ME, my posture and my style. GBL’s suggested combination was the Panthera U3, with an added Benoit Light Drive for optional power, and a Free Wheel for managing bumpy terrain.
Raising the funds
The only barrier was cost… or so I thought. Within three months, the amazing people around me had raised a total of almost £10,000, allowing me to order my dream wheelchair, and make a donation to TFA. My thanks to every single person involved, but in particular to my family, to Stacey Selby, to Carus Green Golf Club and to Debra Pearce and Barclays for match funding.
Getting out of my comfort zone
When the day came to collect my wheelchair I was so excited. Initially, my excitement turned to anxiety after my first go, when I realised just how different the chair was. My old, cumbersome NHS power chair felt like a comfort blanket compared to this new, speedy, gorgeous machine. It took me three or four weeks to really find my confidence, and now I’d never go back!
If you’re in the market for a new wheelchair, please bear this in mind. No amount of demos, showroom visits or even road tests can show you how it will operate in the real world, or what a (positive) difference it could make to your life. It takes practice, perseverance, and time out of your comfort zone, which I think is a really positive thing.
Enjoying the great outdoors
A few weeks ago Darren, Poppy and I had our first trip to Tarn Hows, a stunning, accessible walk near Coniston. It felt amazing to be immersed in the beautiful countryside, but still independent and not reliant on a pusher. We’re planning our first holiday with my new chair (blog post on that coming soon) and Darren’s looking forward to a more relaxed break!
Wheelchairs are amazing, enabling, freedom-enhancing machines, and on International Wheelchair Day I can truly say that I love mine.