The term ambulant wheelchair user refers to individuals who are disabled and use wheelchairs but are capable of walking in some circumstances. I am one of these individuals.Ambulatory wheelchair users report harassment and discrimination simply because the public is unaware of ambulatory wheelchair use. Click To Tweet
When I first became ill my initial diagnosis was positional vertigo, which caused balance issues and to counteract these I started to use a walking stick.
However, I couldn’t walk very far without other symptoms starting, my heart rate would rise and my blood pressure would drop, resulting in near syncope (fainting), not an ideal position to be in when you are walking.
On attending the GP I asked him if there was any medication I could take to help and his reply was the heart rate and blood pressure issues where down to fatigue so I had to manage my fatigue better.
One of the ways I could do this was to use a wheelchair when I was out and about and he would refer me to wheelchair services who would be in touch with me.
The following week I received a phone call from the GPs secretary asking me for my height, weight and hip measurement.
I wasn’t ready for this and even broke down on the phone, the realisation now that I am going to be a wheelchair user for the rest of my life.
A week later I received a transit wheelchair, even as the delivery driver was explaining how to put it together it still hadn’t sunk in that this was for me.
Here was a once independent person who was always used to having to look after herself now going to have to rely on friends and family for support.
It wasn’t helped by being told that once I started to rely on the wheelchair that was it, I needed to stay away from it and just manage without. So, of course, there am I feeling guilty for being ill.
But my life had been on hold because I could no longer go out and see people, I couldn’t go to work and I couldn’t do the things I once did.
Eventually, I pulled my big girl pants up and swallowed my pride, putting a call out on Facebook for someone to push my chair so that I could go to the KCOM Stadium to watch Hull FC.
My wonderful friend Nicky responded and offered to push me, so off I went to meet her and her husband at the pub and he pushed me to the ground and back again.
Jackie also pushed me around Liverpool and the Curve Fashion Festival in this wheelchair.
After a month with the transit wheelchair, I was still not happy asking people to push me. I had a thought that at least if I got a self-propelling wheelchair I would be able to propel my self.
Contacting wheelchair services I asked if I could swap my transit wheelchair for a self-propelling one and they agreed.
Therefore, after attending an assessment I was sent a self-propelling wheelchair and the transit was returned.
Now, my idea of a self-propelling wheelchair was I would be able to self propel myself, visions of para Olympics sprang to mind.
No way, haha, I have left hand sided weakness and my stupid left hand and arm are no longer strong enough to propel the wheel.
My first trip out with the self-propelling was to the jobcentre for my UC assessment, parking up behind the building, the entrance was at the front.
So clever me thought it’s ok I will just propel myself around the front and all will be well, not even taking into account that it was slightly uphill which made it hard to even move.
By the time I got to the entrance I was shattered and was very glad of the rest while I had my UC assessment.
Managing to get back to the car afterwards for some bizarre reason I decided we were going to stay in town for some lunch.
So, parking up near Debenhams or at least it was near if you are able-bodied.
Here I was learning really quickly that town centre pavements were not meant for wheelchairs, for example, where we parked, there was no dropped kerb, so I had to propel myself to find one, when I did find one it was broken, leaving a tiny space to get up and on to the pavement.
Once on the pavement, it was time to find out that the pavements of Hull were uneven with bits sticking up causing a hazard to me and my wheels. I nearly bounced out of the chair a couple of times.
Eventually, I managed to self-propel myself to the doors of Debenhams, yeah automatic doors which I managed to get through, but by this time I was absolutely shattered and just wanted to go home.
After doing a bit of shopping we decided we were going to go and eat in the café next door.
So I headed towards the automatic doors and what I thought was a lovely gentleman rushed in front of me to open the doors, but alas no, he was rushing to get in front of me because I was in his way and just as I set propelled myself towards the doors they closed in front of me. Gee thanks pal.
Thankfully two lovely ladies where at the other side and they opened the doors for me and I propelled my way onto the street, back to the bloody awful pavements of Hull.
Next door to Debenhams is a café that in my younger days going into town with Mum or Grandma we would call in for a tea cake and a cup of tea.
Arriving at the entrance where they proudly displayed a disabled-friendly sign, there was a slope, but it was all broken up with a big ridge at the top and doors that opened towards me, yes very disabled-friendly indeed.
Finally, through the doors and into a seat, ordered some food and asked to use the toilet, yes, they had one which was down the side of the building, haha best not then thanks.
When we left I decided the quickest way was to use my chair as a walker and push it back to the car. Not ideal but it was the only way I could think of getting back to the car quickly as by now I just wanted to get home.
The following weekend I had an event I wanted to attend.
So, putting a call out to our messenger group of friends who were also attending, I asked if I took my chair would someone be able to pick me up and one of my friends replied with yes her and her husband would.
On the evening of the event, my friends picked me and the chair up and took me to the event. It was a lifesaver as we had to queue to get in.
Once, in the event, my friend moved a chair out of the way which meant I could stay in my chair throughout the night.
When I needed to go to the toilet there was no shortage of people to take me and the security guard let us use a different area away from the main crowd.
The best part was one of my best friends who got hold of the chair and took me to the dance floor with her, I always was the first up to dance pre MS and this really made me feel part of something again for the first time in a long time, I did have to put the brakes on though when someone started rocking me about, rocking makes me dizzy and I didn’t fancy throwing up on the dance floor.
In January of 2019, it was getting nearer the start of the super league season and I didn’t want to spend all season asking someone to push my wheelchair so I could go to away games, so I made the decision to purchase a mobility scooter.
Looking around Facebook I found one that was suitable and went to have a look at it, after looking at various different ones I chose the one I wanted and it was delivered to me the following Sunday.
Now the purpose of buying this scooter was so that I could take it apart and carry it in the boot of my car.
Not long after I realised it was too heavy to keep taking apart and it was really awkward trying to get it in and out of the house.
Mum solved the getting it in and out of the house by enlisting her neighbour to install a ramp for me which worked well, but it was still too heavy lifting it over the threshold onto the ramp.
The only advantage was it did get me through most of last season’s away games thanks to Acklams Coaches who picked me up at the top of my street and carried the scooter in the locker of the coach.
When I moved to where I am now my neighbour here installed a ramp for my shed to get the scooter in and out but it was still too heavy and after getting charged an arm and a leg to transport it to an event in June I decided it had to go.
One the decision was made I needed to look at an electric folding wheelchair that could be transported in a normal taxi and also I could lift into the boot of a car.
Looking at some of the local mobility shops I found what I wanted but I had no idea how I was going to pay it.
Awaiting tribunal to appeal about my standard PIP award there was no way I could get one on Motability.
Speaking to friends they suggested I start a Go Fund Me, which I did and just as I got to £200 in donations I received a tax rebate.
Because I was a still a little short I started to look around for a reconditioned one and found one within 20 miles, he also took my scooter in part exchange met the remainder of the price.
You can read all about Speedy Igo here.
What is an ambulant wheelchair user?I am an ambulant wheelchair user, my wheelchair enables me to attend events and carry on my life pre-MS, why would anyone begrudge me that. Click To Tweet
So, the next time you see someone in a disabled parking bay get out of their car and get into a wheelchair, just for one second think how much it took them to do that while admiring their strength to still go out and do the things they want and need to.
Because let’s face it, you don’t know if you or any of your loved ones could end up in the same position one day.Speedy Igo is my lifeline to the outside world and for that, I am truly thankful. Click To Tweet
Are you an ambulant wheelchair user? What has been your experience of others perceptions? Let me know in the comments and please share.
Finding my way with multiple sclerosis