Friday, 27 November 2009

An interesting view

Tomorrow will be one of my first outings since I returned home (physios or doctors don't count) and it's going to be really chilly. This means two things… wheelchair and a blanket. If you've never been in a wheelchair before then I can only say that it's an experience. Your entire view of the world changes.

Firstly, there's the novelty of travelling around at waist height. You end up viewing the world from the level of a ten-year old. This causes you to constantly look up to the people you meet in the street - a very strange feeling. But perhaps the worst part of being in a wheelchair are the looks one gets. Let's forget the odd picture of my fairly small wife pushing round a 5' 11'' male, but people do look at you in a variety of ways. Some stare, small children tend to tap each others arms and point. I guess most immobile people use scooters so you don't see so many wheelchairs around but you soon learn that this is not a wheelchair friendly world.

Despite all the excellent adaptations and the laws that try to make it easier for disabled people to get about, going around town and doing some shopping in a non-electric wheelchair is like a commando assault course for the driver and slightly akin to the Cannonball Run for the passenger. I've lost count of the number of times I've closed my eyes as my protruding leg has nearly smashed into a pillar or clipped the edge of a door. It's dangerous. Eating can be difficult too, as the average wheelchair seems to have a special magnetic capability when it comes to crumbs of food. After a day in town, the seat of a wheelchair can look resemble the baskets of food following the clear up operation of 'the feeding of the 5,000'. It's worse than the cat's food mat.

My second observation is that you soon get cold being wheeled round and that tends to make you more pathetic and waif-like than you really are. This elicits sympathy from elderly ladies and young mothers, which is no bad thing and can be quite comforting. It also makes you appreciate nice warm shops and cafes.

But perhaps the best view from a wheelchair is the number of kindly and thoughtful people you can see that there are in this world. I've had my share of ignorance, rudeness and pigheadedness from people who've let a door close on me when wheeling myself around. I've also been made to wait out in the pouring rain while trying to get into a shop where the doorway is choc-full of immobile women desperate not to get their hair wet and seemingly happy for me and my blanket to get absolutely drenched by a cloudburst. However, overwhelmingly there are so many Good Samaritans in the world who will offer help and support to a total stranger. A short spell in a wheelchair can restore your faith in humanity.

Well, tomorrow I shall have my little outing and enjoy a fresh coffee with friends in the same cafe I've been visiting for 30 years. Then I'll have a quick spin around the German-style Christmas market our town holds each year. It won't be a long outing, but long enough to top up my spirits and give me a glimpse of the normality that I can't wait to reclaim.


  1. I can't say that I can even begin to understand how frustrating a wheelchair must be, but i wish you a lovely day!! Get a cold and runny nose so that you can come back and warm up by your new fireplace with a nice glass of red or a cuppa!! have a good one.


  2. I feel for you mate, I have had to use a wheelchair for a while, it was an absolute pain in the but, and I was just going around the hospital. I lost count of the number of times I was wheeled into things.

    I gave up and used a zimmer frame, it was easier.

    I hope you have a pleasant day out mate, and the plebs respect you :)


    Kat from Perth.


    My authentication word was pition, do you thing they want me to take pity on you ?


    Kat from Perth.

  4. I only had a couple of outings in a chair and what I found hard to take was the sheer invisibility of it all.. I didn't exist so good luck for your outing perhaps you should dress in the brightest colour clothes you have so you can be seen and spoken to xx

  5. I think I have a very fetching purple sweater and scarf. That's about as bright as I go.

  6. It is a whole new world when you have a disability! As a student we got to 'play' at a mobility place and try out lots of different wheelchairs! Oh My Goodness! I have so much respect for wheelchair users!

    I have to say I am not overly supportive of the scooter things. I have seen too many being used as battering rams in crowded shopping centres and streets etc to appreciate them.

    Enjoy your time out. It is good to get back to normality.

  7. Hi XTM

    Just a thought - when you're up to it, wd linking up with the Patient's Assoc in some way help your (our?) quest for improvements in hospital grub in some way? From reports on the news re disgusting hosp conditions it sounds like they're hopping mad and a useful poss ally?

    Have a good time tomorrow.

    All best wishes

  8. Thanks, BLY. I'll take a look at that. I'm surprised how hard it's proving to get anyone in officialdom interested. The media gives a certain amount of coverage but nothing like the fuss over school meals. I guess sick and elderly people aren't so media friendly. I won't give up but it just might take a while.

  9. Off topic, but fodder for your campaign: Richard Bourne has been sacked from NHS Colchester. The article is headline news at the

  10. Too many overpaid bureaucrats are literally getting away with murder in the NHS. I surprised how narrow the intake of people is for those who run our hospitals. It seems like a Cody game of musical chairs with a bit of mutual backscratching thrown in for good measure.

  11. Hi
    It's the ms woman again.

    Life from a wheelchair: you get the biggest and best smiles from the kids who are incredibly innocent and cute "look daddy, that lady has wheels on her bum." Unfortunately, some parents whip their kids out of the way telling them not to stare, but the kids are great.

    On top of getting cold because you're not doing stuff, the other thing you get if it's raining is wet. Think about it - when you're vertical the surface area facing upwards is a lot less - when sitting it's more! I have a superdooper wheelchair raincape, but as your time in said chair is going to be limited, you might want to think about something else - bin bag??? And big bulky coats to keep you warm ride up round your ears!!!

    Have a great trip out! My husband and I have developed many little tricks for the places we usually go and as you say, the spirit of human kindness is out there!

  12. TM, Get a rubber water bottle, wrap it in a towel and keep it on your knees under a blanket. It is quite easy to catch a chill when seated out doors and not able to be mobile.

    Best to put water bottle in a plastic zip lock large bad incase it leaks.

    Some charity shops sell these large plastic ponchos with hoods for about a quid each, I know the Red Cross does as I bought some when I lived near one , if I find one here , as I have new ones somewhere, do you want me to post it to you ?


  13. Have a good trip out tomorrow Ex TM. I bet the German style market is better than the poor attempt in my home town...which looks more like a B&Q shed sale!!. Just stay off the escalators in the wheel chair!.


  14. Have a go in a mobility scooter (shopmobility?) -I did once when immobile and it was an interesting experience.

  15. I've not been out in a chair but I've seen the frustrations and problems of a friend who uses one. At great expense, they put ramps on every block near where we live. She was quite excited as it might make it possible for her to go out alone. It was a dreadfully disappointing experience for her since the workmanship was so bad that she couldn't get up some of them herself and it was even difficult when I was pushing.

    I have experience of using a stick for a few years. Walking was difficult and painful yet most people would not give up a seat for me on the bus. The people who were kindest were the elderly - obviously others who knew what it was like to be sore. I had one hilarious experience when the bus turned a sharp corner and I fell out of the seat. I couldn't get up myself and ended up trying to use my arms to climb up a pole while and elderly woman had me gripped by the armpits and was trying to heave me vertical. Eventually the whole bus was joining in shouting "No! Not now, he's going round another corner". The driver only noticed after the woman and I had successfully got me up. He stopped and came round to see I was ok. I would have been humiliated if I'd been of a more sensitive nature but I found it pretty funny.

    Good luck with the chair when you venture out. I see there's some great advice here from those with the experience.