Gosh it’s been a while since a blogpost, hasn’t it? Loads of potential updates going round in my head, but what with house-moving stresses and other stuff, none of them are making it into print! So I’m making an effort today.
A few months back I had the decision of whether to replace Pudding’s special needs buggy with something similar or to go with a wheelchair this time. As well as the buggy becoming harder and harder to push given how worn-down the wheels were, the appointment was triggered by my worries about his safety. When he got cross (who’d think it of that gorgeous smiling face?!) he would push down on the footplate, arching his back and being in real danger of tipping the whole thing over backwards.
We did talk about various options to stop this happening, but also there was the knowledge that he wasn’t getting any smaller and would eventually outgrow the buggy anyway. The physiotherapist got a wheelchair out for him to try and his little face when he climbed into it… Well, I knew that it was the right thing!
We’ve had the chair for just over a month now, and I’m happy to report that I still think it was the right decision. It has changed our lives in a number of ways – some expected, and some not so much.
I had got into the habit of driving more often than I’d like as it was such an effort going any distance with the buggy. The wheelchair though is a dream in comparison. I can even push and steer one-handed! I do have to be better at remembering to put the brakes on – without them it does want to head off independently down even the slightest of slopes. (And no, we have not crashed yet…)
The accessibility (or not) of the built environment has become much more obvious to me. The little wheels at the front of the chair make it a bit harder to negotiate small obstacles than with the buggy. (Drivers please note: dropped kerbs are there to make it possible for wheelchair users to get around – if you park over them it might save you 30 seconds but take someone else far longer to find a different route). And I never knew that some surfaces are near impossible to get across. My unfavourite so far is this sort of surface used around the accessible parking bays in a place near us.
One thing I hadn’t realised is how much heavier it would be, so I’m eternally grateful for the friend who helped us find our new car earlier this year. He chose one with no lip on the boot which makes it possible for me to lift it in myself without too much damage to my back. One of those solutions that lifts the wheelchair onto the roof of your car would be absolutely fabulous, but at around two thousand pounds not really affordable.
It does feel easier to use our Blue Badge card. Previously I always worried that our right to park in the disabled bay would be challenged as there have been instances where those with invisible disabilities have been on the receiving end of horrible comments. With a wheelchair we ‘fit’ people’s expectations of disability more.
Attitudes towards us when we’re out and about are also quite different now. The first time I caught a bus with Pudding in his new chair was a marked change. The bus driver stopped at a slightly better place, got the ramp out and asked if we had a disabled travel pass. Not all travel is that easy when disabilities are added into the mix and perhaps we just hit lucky with an excellent driver, but we certainly never had as attentive service when he was in the buggy.
I had expected to receive a bit more understanding from adults – seeing a wheelchair automatically signals more of a difference than a buggy – it prepares people to accept that the wheelchair user/carer may need more help and support. And if Pudding is being particularly loud I hope that he won’t be dismissed as ‘out of control’ as much. But I guess one thing I wasn’t prepared for was how many more stares we get from other children. They see buggies all the time of course, but a wheelchair is outside their daily experience.
I may just have to grow a thicker hide again, but of course Pudding couldn’t care less. In the chair he seems very happy – he is more upright and therefore more actively involved in his environment. It’s the perfect height for most cafe tables meaning that he can join us more easily. And he can climb in and out all by himself so gets the added pride of being more independent.
We’re wheely happy!