A few weeks ago I went to speak at a National Trust event in Derby, which turned out to be a really interesting experience. Unexpectedly I also got to indulge one of my biggest passions – talking about wheelchairs.
The event was for National Trust employees from all over the UK. They were being encouraged to think about access in loads of different ways, through talks and presentations, but also by demonstrations of products or services that might be useful in their setting.
One of the products on display were Mountain Trikes. They are stylish all-terrain wheelchairs that I’ve had my eye on for ages.
Years ago when I was choosing my first all-terrain chair I went with my dad and Fat Sister to the Mobility Road Show. I tried a Mountain Trike there, but back then they didn’t work for me because the steering of the trikes, which were all self-propelled, was controlled by one hand. My involuntary movements meant I quickly careered off into a neighbouring exhibit, and Fat Sister told me firmly I had to get out.
Since then there’ve been some developments. Firstly, Mountain Trike have developed a new version of the chair called the MT Push. It’s designed to be pushed by a companion so it’s the pusher who has control of the brakes and steering, not the person in the chair. The second development is that I’m experiencing lots of pain and fatigue, so at the moment I rarely ever push myself along.
We tested the new MT Push, and both Leftwing Idiot and I were very impressed. I was blown away by how comfortable it was. It has shock-absorbers that mean it jolts me about a lot less than other chairs, even on rough ground. This is incredibly appealing to me because every bump makes my pain more intense.
Leftwing Idiot found it much easier to push than my other all-terrain chair. He also said it felt much more stable. I fell out of my first all-terrain chair shortly after getting it and fractured my elbow, and he hasn’t really trusted it since.
I was really impressed by the chair and could see how it would help me. But like lots of mobility equipment it’s very expensive and not available on the NHS. However, I was impressed to discover that you could buy it on credit, paying for it over several months or years with no interest or extra costs to pay.
This was very tempting, and today I took the plunge, applied for the loan, and ordered one. This is a big purchase and I feel exceptionally privileged to be in a position to make it happen. I’m going to be at lots of festivals this summer and the idea of being able to move around in comfort is incredibly appealing.
I made the big decision about getting the chair relatively easily, but what I struggled with was what colour to choose. After much deliberation I decided to call in some help, so after narrowing it down to four choices, yellow, orange, blue, and grey, I created an online poll with pictures, and sent it to my friends and family.
The votes came in thick and fast and within twenty-four hours two clear favourites had emerged, yellow and orange. Leftwing Idiot was the last to vote and with that the winner emerged – yellow.
I’m really looking forward to using it, but in spite of being ridiculously excited about it I do still feel a slight sadness that I’m no longer able to propel myself, though hopefully this won’t be a permanent situation.
To help me prepare for its arrival I’ve changed the spokes on my everyday chair to yellow as well.
I’m very pleased with my new yellow equipment. Now you’ll certainly be able to see me coming, as well as hearing me.
Wheelchairs are so much more than just mobility aids and the right chair can transform a life. I’m going to make very sure my old all-terrain chair goes to a good home.
I can’t wait for some wild adventures with an unusually smooth ride.