Saturday, 19 October 2013

The worst kind of retail therapy

I have been shopping recently, and it was the worst kind of retail therapy I have ever done. 
I bought a wheelchair. A wheelchair that I am going to be using. 

And while it was far from therapeutic as an experience, it was also far from simple...

There are so many things to consider when it comes to getting a wheelchair - seat width, depth and angle, type of footrest, height and style of back support, type and height of arm rests and the type of wheels, their heights and camber and the tipping point of the chair. It has been a very steep learning curve. But there have been some really good resources that have helped me along the way, and that's the point of this blog post really! 
My big fear with the chair was to do with vanity - I wanted to feel comfortable going to meetings in it and being seen out and about in it. I didn't want to become engulfed by equipment each time I had a relapse. Knowing the amazing Denise Stephens, and looking at the Enabled by Design website reassured me that I shouldn't be afraid. Nice things were out there! A browse around Blue Badge 
Style also left me feeling that getting this chair wasn't going to be the end of things.  

But the technicalities of what I was looking for still confused me. Perhaps the error I made was to do my initial research on-line whilst lying on the sofa during a relapse watching the IPC Para-athletic world championships in Lyon this summer....
I was never going to be getting a chair like those athletes had. But the Disability Living Foundation has a great fact sheet with all the aspects of a chair that you need to consider. I can really recommend it as a way to get your head around it all! As on-line and 'wired' as I am, I still needed to talk to someone face to face and get a tape measure out. That was were the local independent living centre run by social services and the county council came in. I had an hour with a OT talking through what I needed and trying a few chairs out. It was really helpful in terms of my measurements, but she was really only able to advise me on the standard NHS tanks - big clunky chairs. The vanity issue rears its head again...

By this stage, I just wanted to sit in some and get a feel for them, so began the wild goose chase! Since I am not in the chair permanently (only during relapses, or when trying to pace myself), I don't use it enough to qualify for our local NHS Wheelchair Service. I was going it alone in terms of advice and funding.
I spoke to UK Wheelchairs who apparently have the largest stock and warehouse of chairs - except they didn't do the slightly more active chairs in stock at the warehouse. The told me to speak to the manufactures, who would be able to get me a demo. When I spoke to them, they said to speak to my local dealer/mobility shop and ask them to order a demo. That wasn't want the local shop heard when they spoke to them. Queue several weeks of chasing things up! But eventually, a few demo chairs arrived and I had a sit and a wheel in them all. There was a clear favourite and after discussing the measurements, I placed an order for it! 

I wanted to write this blog post as a way of sharing all the links that I found useful in this quest, and while there are some great websites out there, the most useful nuggets of information I got were from other people who were already using chairs... People from my local sailing group, Chesil Sailability, talked to me about their choices and preferences, I ended up speaking to others randomly in the street, and of course Twitter came in use too! 

Whilst I would recommend all of the websites I have put links to, nothing replaces talking to other people! The experts by experience! 

Time to get life back on a roll again! ; ) 

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  1. Thank you for mentioning Blue Badge Style. I am also in a wheelchair so everything we report is also from firsthand experience unless they are concept chairs of course,

  2. I could feel the experience through this post.