one of the more common assumptions about wheelchairs is that they are entrapping. You will often hear it said, “you must long to escape that chair?” Or, alternatively, a well-meaning person might make the observation, “every able-bodied person should spend a day in a wheelchair to know what it’s like to live with disability.”
In fact, the wheelchair is a liberating device – and far from entrapping me, gives me freedom. yesterday, on my way home from work, my wheelchair broke down halfway up the hill. I was trapped, and my poor son Lachlan had to push me home – all 260 kg of chair and body (champion). at least I’d made it home, but the next day (today as I write) I needed to make an important meeting at midday in the city. so, at 8 AM I called wheelchair service to arrange a fix. I was fortunate that a repair man was available, and he came to fix the chair. By 10 o’clock, he’d finished and left and I was up and ready for my meeting – only to discover as I was heading out the door that the error had repeated, and I was going nowhere. So back to bed, meeting missed. And here I wait for who knows how long?
My point is, that the chair is my liberation. It does give me some complications. I can’t transfer, so I’m stuck in it.I can’t get in to a normal car, and there are some buildings with steps that are inaccessible – personal homes are the worse – with more than 80% disability unfriendly. but aside from minor inconveniences, I love my chair. Think of the following:
1. Speed – I can get around at 10 km an hour, which makes you lot with legs seem slow. on a pavement, I can be downright dangerous to people who walk with their heads in their phone.
2. Carry – I might not have much arm strength, but my chair makes a handy (pun intended) trolley. I’m brilliant with grocery bags, and make light work of a picnic.
3. Seating – I never have a problem finding a seat. Last on to a packed train – no problems.
4. sleeping – my chair tilts back almost 90°. That means I have a bed with me wherever I go. I’m notorious for falling asleep on the train, having to be woken up by the guard when I arrive at my destination. other passengers are downright jealous (especially retirees and mothers of young children).
5. barging – I never have problems making my way through a crowd. My chair has a steel foot plates and acts like a snowplough when people are in the way.
6. Entertaining – my nephews and nieces love sitting on my lap and going for a ride. They grow out of it of course, but the young ones think it’s brilliant. When a ride is on the offer, I’m the favourite uncle.
If you want to know what it’s like being disabled, spend a day in my bed, and get hoisted and showered by my carers, and tie your legs together halfway up a hill. but don’t spend a day in my chair, because I need it.
Mike BinghamJanuary 29, 2014 at 5:24 pm
You are a legend Shane!! The train is rides are boring when you are not there!!
Shane CliftonJanuary 29, 2014 at 5:51 pm
Dave KeaneJanuary 29, 2014 at 5:58 pm
You’re hilarious Shane!! Hope you guys are well mate. Take care & God bless. Dave
Shane CliftonJanuary 29, 2014 at 6:40 pm
doing well David – pray the same is so you. What I can see, your family is flourishing up North.
Cathrin JanøyJanuary 29, 2014 at 8:17 pm
Love it Shane!! So glad to see you still being so great as I remember! It was never in my wildest dreams that the greastest and most inspiring person I met in Australia would be injured like you, I must be honest and say so. But, I know you can work this like no other! I am doing well here in Norway, got my second child a year ago so busy days 🙂 Remember the documentary I told my husband was making? They got alot of good resource and interview, and actually, they got covered what I think you would have brought to the table. The film is JUST finished, AND already sold to Norway´s largest TV-channel (that´s a big deal), they are working on selling it in other countries too. It´s got english subtitles so I hope that you will get to watch it too! In fact I am gonna make SURE you get to, because I think you will find it very interesting!! 🙂 I miss my Australia days, but I am glad to say, I have a blessed life, I feel like I am in the right place, glad to see you are blessed too!
Shane CliftonFebruary 1, 2014 at 5:06 pm
Cathrin, so nice to hear from you, and I really look forward to seeing the film. Perhaps one day I’ll get to Norway, I love the idea of visiting Scandinavia. Not sure id cope with the cold though!
Coral EdwardsJanuary 29, 2014 at 11:14 pm
I feel you could add to the entertainment section… Though maybe your boys have not yet discovered it. Motorised chairs make great tow vehicles.. Have passed Simon flying along (at 10km per hour) with Josh Dunford in tow atop a skateboard… 😉
As always love your honest and real perspective on life as a quad!!
Shane CliftonJanuary 30, 2014 at 9:03 am
yes, coral, you’re right – I’ve done that one also. Good fun for all concerned.
JackieJanuary 30, 2014 at 7:34 am
Awesome! What kind of seating system is it?
Shane CliftonJanuary 30, 2014 at 9:02 am
I confess, Jackie,that I don’t know as much about my chair as I should. All I can tell you is that I’m seated on Roho cushion – in the chair is a quantum 6000z. Hope that mean something to you!
arkansasroseFebruary 1, 2014 at 4:37 pm
Mine tilts back like yours does.Being trapped into one spot because your wheelchair doesn’t work is the pits and, for me, scary. I do, however, think people should spend a day in my wheelchair, legs bound so they can’t use them.
Try to cook, try to brush your teeth, pick up something you’ve dropped, make your bed or maneuver in and out of places not suited for a wheelchair, much less an electric one. You can’t get up to do these things, and many more, you are ‘trapped’ in the confines of the wheelchair.
I see it different than you I suppose. I do not see these things as ‘minor inconveniences’, I see them as a big hindrance to my independence and that, above everything including actually being in a wheelchair, makes me feel the most trapped.
I think that would be the best lesson in appreciation for their health.
Shane CliftonFebruary 1, 2014 at 5:00 pm
Thanks for your input (Mary?). You are identifying some important struggles, and you are correct they are more than minor inconvenience. I still prefer my chair to being stuck in bed, but your point is well made.
Kelly SimonFebruary 2, 2014 at 12:05 am
I’m not in a chair, but my husband is (c 5/6 quad). Arkansasrose, we got a service dog about four years ago. If that is an option for you, I could not overstate what a difference ours has made. The biggest thing he does for Charles is to pick up dropped things. He could have been trained to help with doors or even open the fridge and bring Charles a sandwich. He has been a. HUGE blessing for us. (From my perspective, he gives me great peace of mind. We have panic buttons in our house. If anything happens to Charles, Rufus will push one. The alarm company calls me, our across the street neighbor and then the fire station with explicit instructions to gain access to help the quad inside.)
Shane CliftonFebruary 2, 2014 at 12:33 am
I’ve thought about a dog but I’m worried it would just be more work for someone else. Thanks for the advice.
Kelly SimonFebruary 2, 2014 at 1:42 am
Shane, that was a concern of ours as well. For us, the pros of having a dog far outweigh the cons. There is some extra work, but it is nominal compared to the benefits that we both gain from the dog.
arkansasroseFebruary 2, 2014 at 4:26 am
I’ve tried several times to get a service dog and each time I don’t qualify. If I could, I would. Right now I have an aide who comes in every week day for 3 hours to help with things I can’t do. I still have quite a bit of independence, thankfully, but there’s things I can do that she does. My comment was mainly toward the fact I think an able-body person should spend a day in a wheelchair to see how difficult it can be, If my mobility or independence lessens then I will resubmit for a service dog. Maybe then I will be able to get one. Thank you for the advice. 🙂