I didn't realise how much of an impact having the right power wheelchair can have on a person. Before I got my current power wheelchair, I thought that people exaggerate the desire for an all-singing, all dancing wheelchair. Although I still don't agree with funding your own if there are alternatives, I'm starting to realise why people do. There are several pros and cons to funding your own wheelchair; a good thing about funding a wheelchair yourself is that once you have the money to pay for it, I don't think you have to wait as long. Whereas if you are in the UK, and go through the National Health Service (NHS), you could have a very long wait ahead of you. The current wheelchair services can't cope with the amount of people needing wheelchairs, so there is a huge backlog and waiting list, meaning that people could wait over a year just for an assessment. I understand the service is under a massive amount of pressure, financially and they are understaffed, but the service doesn't run as it should. It took over a year to get my current power chair!
Anyway, having the right wheelchair for your needs is incredibly important. You'd be hard-pushed to find a perfect wheelchair, but my powered chair is near to perfect for me. It even has a clock on the omi display, which I find really helpful because I used to wear a watch, but I found it difficult to position my hand and wrist to allow me to look at a watch, which took more time and effort than it was worth. Having a clock on my wheelchair lets me easily glance to see what the time is.
When I first got this power chair, I wasn't confident to turn the speed up, but now I am comfortable with going a bit faster. I've found a good speed for keeping up with people walking with me without over-taking them too much. I really enjoy moving myself around rather than just sitting being pushed in my manual. It also means that I can slow down or stop when I'm looking at things without having to ask someone. The only things that I think would help me are mirrors so that I can look behind me.
I travel to Portsmouth on the ferry a lot, and personally, I enjoy travelling on the ferry because it's quick and easy to get to Portsmouth from Gosport and back again. I also like being on the water. I was with my mum the first time I went in my power chair on the ferry. I planned to do this because I wanted to go on it in my power chair with someone I really trusted, like family, before I went with my carers. It's not that I don't trust my carers though. I don't know why, and logic says that it wouldn't happen, but I had this small fear that my wheels would get stuck in between the ferry and the pontoon. I know that it was just irrational. Doing it with my mum that first time helped get rid of that fear.
The photo below was taken in Portsmouth on 22/11/19.
I have been out and about in my electric wheelchair all over the place, some places are nice and easy to navigate and some places are a real test in my control. Narrow places are the worst because I struggle to keep my chair in a straight line at the moment as it's new, but I'm definitely getting better and more confidant. I've been on buses in my electric wheelchair as well; that was fun... Not. On buses, there is one dedicated wheelchair space, but there is a great big pole beside it. You have to back your wheelchair into the space and the poles make it very difficult to manoeuvre in and out of the wheelchair spaces. There isn't enough space between the wheelchair space and the seats behind it either. I haven't heard any wheelchair user say that they haven't found an issue with these spaces.
I think Gosport is the easiest place to be when you use a power wheelchair because most places in Gosport are wide and open. Fareham isn't too bad either. Bumpy surfaces make it difficult to control my chair too because my foot control on it is very sensitive and the tiniest movement of the joy stick thing will move the chair, so going over bumps means that I have to take extra care.
I'm still not as confident with going up my ramp into my car as I would like to be, but I'll get there. I still feel as though I am going to tip backwards. I would say that it feels better going out, but then I can't see where I'm going, so I'm not sure if it is better. In my car, there isn't much room for error, so I think that's why I get nervous.
In Gosport and Fareham, people just go about their day, but in Portsmouth, it's another story... As a family, we have always encouraged people to ask questions, especially children because you don't learn unless you ask questions and I would rather people ask things than just stare. Since I got my power chair, I've been to all sorts of places with it. In Portsmouth, I've had lots of people stop and ask how I control my chair, which is really great because it shows that these people aren't afraid to ask questions. This also gives me a boost in confidence and mood.
I like it when shops have wide aisles because it allows me and other wheelchair users to go along one side without worrying about whether you are in people's way. Although, it doesn't help when baskets and stock are out in the aisles because that's more things that we have to navigate around.
The footplate on my power wheelchair is plastic and has no grip. It's fine when it's dry, but when it is raining, I have found that my foot slides around in the footplate, which makes it difficult to control my chair properly. It also makes a horrible squeaky noise when my foot moves on the wet plate. I should have an appointment with my local wheelchair services soon to collect my arm rests, so when I go to that, I'm going to ask them to put some non-slip material on the footplate. The foot control seems to stick sometimes, and although it's not too bad, my chair goes round in a circle when it sticks like that. Luckily it doesn't go too fast when this happens, so I am able to correct it, but it's still annoying. I'm going to mention this as well.
Overall, I love using my new power wheelchair! I am definitely way more independent than what I was in my other one. Apart from a few people, I also think having this wheelchair has changed the way people view me because before, many people tended to look down on me and think that I wasn't aware of my surroundings. I think it has made people realise that I have capacity and that I am capable of doing things. I really feel that it has changed my life for the better!
I hope you have enjoyed reading this post, and I will see you next time.