Beth on wheels: Spending a day in a wheelchair17 July 2010
Victoria was diagnosed with limb-girdle muscular dystrophy at the age of 18. Facing the reality that she may be a wheelchair user within the next 10 years, she asked her friend Beth, who is fully able, to take up the challenge of sitting in a wheelchair for eight hours. Beth accepted the challenge which started by collecting the wheelchair from the Shopmobility Centre in the Bullring, Birmingham.
How did it feel sitting in the wheelchair?
The wheelchair had a soft padded cushion on it so it felt fairly comfortable. It felt quite smooth around the Bullring shopping centre, but other places didn’t feel so accessible.
How did you find your experience?
Overall the day was fun and a real eye opener. I realised how much I take for granted and how well people with a disability cope with the general challenges faced each day, in order to be independent.
What things did you notice the most?
Instantly I noticed the height difference from standing to a sitting position. I sometimes struggled to hear what people said and felt like I was craning my neck to hear! I relied on others to help with doors and getting in and out of lifts and the unevenness of the pavements meant that sometimes the wheelchair buckled and I was thrown forward.
What was it like on public transport?
Public transport wasn't too bad as I had help, but if I was alone I would have found it really hard manoeuvring. Some people didn’t even bother to move out the way so I could wheel past. If I was on my own there would be no other way to get up on to the bus unless the general public helped me.
What did you find most challenging?
The hardest thing was the fact that I was relying on others for a vast majority of the day. I would really have struggled to open doors all by myself as some are really heavy! The general loss of independence was really significant, because I am used to just nipping into town on my own, in the spur of the moment.
How did people approach you, as a wheelchair user?
In general I felt that I was treated no differently, and people seemed open and helpful. Some people did stare though, which made me feel slightly uncomfortable, but sometimes I felt that people deliberately didn't look at me because maybe they felt uncomfortable!
Any final comments?
Spending a day in a wheelchair made me realise how much I take for granted and appreciate the struggles that any person with a disability may have to face.
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