Wheelin' thru History

My first wheelchair was bright pink, rigid, and required human-power pushing. Call me spoiled or just technology dependent, but I now refer to all manual wheelchairs as "Flinstone rides."

The Quickie Zippie manual chair also came with a tray that screwed onto the side hand rests. I hated the tray. I used it throughout pre-school and early elementary school, but after the first grade it was phased out because I resisted it so much. My physical and occupational therapists tried every way to the glass-like tray to grow on me, even decorating the border with stickers - but I hated it.
First off it was so bulky that the tray wasn't something I could take on and off on my own. This meant that I could not escape my wheelchair without first asking an adult for help. Secondly, I didn't like how the tray separated me from my friends and classmates. When the class was doing an activity at a table that was too low for my wheelchair, or too high, or if it was an outside activity - the tray would be put on. Though at the time it was meant to serve as an accommodation, in reality all it seemed to do was put a physical barrier around my already existing bubble. Lastly, the tray also made it difficult for me to push myself. The sides of the tray attached to the handle bars and the extra bulk on the sides made it challenging for me to maneuver my chair; in short I felt clunky and useless.

Right before I entered middle school my parents, physical therapist, and orthopedic doctor decided I should get a power chair. Middle school would mean longer distances between classes, heavier back packs, and keeping up with my ever growing classmates. My first power wheelchair zoomed over grass, dirt, bumps, hills, and all the other terrain that I hadn't yet experienced on my own. I loved it and so did my friends who often jumped on the back during recess. Needless to say, this first power wheelchair got me hooked on the independence that power wheelchairs brought into my life. Though it may be odd for me to note this, but the biggest difference was that I had to train my right (non-dominant) hand to do things. Since I no longer required both arms to push, I quickly found how much I was able to get done with one hand free. In gym class I was better able to dribble the basketball, in art class I didn't need my friends to hold my drawings for me, at lunch I could throw away my own trash... these were the small things in everyone else's day-to-day routine that I was beginning to see that I could do on my own!

5th Grade
After high school I got my second power wheelchair. The thought here was that I would soon be venturing out into the real world, living on a college campus, and would need a chair that would allow me to be as independent of an adult as possible. This was when I was introduced to chairs that gave me height. Having mastered as much of the "2-d" plane on wheels as I could, I entered into a world where I no longer had to perform a circus act just to see the top of a kitchen counter. With a push of a button my chair would rise nearly half a foot, giving me an added 6inch height. Trust me, for someone who is exactly a yard stick tall - that's quite a difference!
There's more than just being able to reach higher on shelves, or being able to push the buttons on a vending machine. The other aspects of height include eye contact. I think that this was the biggest difference in getting a wheelchair with elevation abilities: no longer would people feel the need to 'look down' at me (even if they weren't figuratively doing so). And on that note, I also would no longer hear as many knees cracking as teachers or other adults knelt down near me.

Current chair getting new tires

My current wheelchair is a Permobil C300 and my last power chair was also from Permobil as well. I've been thrilled with the company as it provides great usability, durability, and the chairs themselves last quite awhile. Though I do have a new Permobil, my older one still works and it's handy to have a back-up just in case anything goes awry.

But when it comes to trays... despite having a "cooler" tray that collapses to the side and I can put on and off on my own - I still would prefer not to deal with the hassle. In lecture halls many desks are attached to chairs and sometimes I am not always good about making sure that there is a wheelchair accessible desk already in the classroom. Instead, what I've done is I turn the chair around so that the desk is facing me and find that it has worked well for my chair's height. This is also handy because since the seat is empty I can use the now empty chair that faces in front of me to put my books, backpack, or binders that I don't need.

As a gadgety nerd I am continually fascinated by the new technology that wheelchairs have these days. I have heard of apps on smart phones that will allow wheelchair users to control their chair, chairs that are able to climb stairs, and even chairs that have back massages and seat warmers! ... Okay, so that last thing is really just a chair that exists in my fantasy world... but still.. a girl can hope!

Posted in , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. RSS feed for this post.

Leave a Reply

Copyright © 2011 Perfectly Imperfecta. Powered by Blogger.