Sandra Dick: Remember wheelchairs are no pushover

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CLATTER! Oops, didn’t mean that. Sorry! Bang – well, that was a mistake too. Bit of ice on that lump, couple of stitches, you’ll be tickety boo. Take it from me, you really don’t want to get in my way when I’m shoving a wheelchair. Nor do you want to sit in a wheelchair with me shoving it.

A couple of years ago I had my first spin at the helm of a wheelchair. Hubby, post-op and so bloated with fluid he looked like the Michelin Man after a diet of cream buns and haggis suppers, had been squeezed into a chair for a jaunt to the ERI café.

I figured it’d be like those lovely days as a new mum, pushing the bairns in their buggy accompanied by birdsong and that warm glow of motherhood. Shove him along the corridor, drink some coffee – how hard could that be? In fact, it was almost impossible.

Hubby’s post-op recovery was not helped by the removal of all the skin across his knuckles, the result of him gripping the chair’s arms at the precise moment I misjudged the turn through the ward doors. Nor was it aided by the stomach-churning zig-zag sway as I tried and failed to push a heavy wheelchair in a straight line.

Every lift was crammed with folk with perfectly functioning legs capable of walking downstairs without the aid of a big machine.

When an empty one arrived, the doors refused to stay open long enough, so we did the Hokey Cokey several times to the tune of his swearing, before some kind soul came to help.

At the café, he was a nervous wreck and I exhausted to the point of needing a chair with wheels and someone to push me. Having crashed into tightly packed tables, smacked chairs, rolled over stray feet and pleaded with ignoramuses to please let us past, we quit, went back the way we’d come with a few extra bumps thrown in.

I mention this because Saturday was Disabled Access Day. Sponsored by Euan’s Guide, a website inspired by Capital man Euan MacDonald, who has motor neurone disease, the idea was to shine a spotlight on how challenging it can be for disabled folk and their families and, in doing so, highlight the need for change.

To my shame, it was only during that accident-prone outing that I began to really understand how hard it is every day for those whose lives are lived in the confines of a chair.

Euan’s Guide is doing brilliant work praising those who have successfully addressed the needs of the disabled.

Being in a wheelchair – never mind just trying to push one – is tough enough.

www.euansguide.com