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Wheelchairs: One Size Doesn’t Fit All

A wheelchair is supposed to be the thing that liberates you from paralysis and immobility.

Woman on Wheelchair - dark space | © Nathan McDine on Unsplash

Woman on Wheelchair - dark space (Nathan McDine on Unsplash)

Last year I met a girl called Ida. She was eleven years old at the time and her teacher had shared her story with me. Hoping I would help get her the assistance she needed. I was to go see her at school but she hadn't reported that day because of illnesses related to her disability. Her parents, without the possibility to miss at work, had her left her with a neighbour. I saw Ida for the first time in a red dress, her skin was as dark as her countenance. She looked sad, too sad for a little girl.

My heart sunk when I laid my eyes on her, she was on an old dusty wheelchair meant for a person twice my size. My size, not her's. Her teacher had shared with me that Ida didn't have legs and that is why she needed a wheelchair to get around.

...but I had legs.

Since she had such an oversized wheelchair, her feet couldn't reach the footrests because they were too far away and her legs werent long enough, she is just but a child. The practical thing to do was to get rid of the footrests since she didn't need them and fold her feet on top of each other in a way that they rested on the seating area. Once the feet were in that position, all she needed to do was pull her dress over her feet. To anyone looking, it seemed like she had no legs.

A wheelchair is supposed to be the thing that liberates you from paralysis and immobility. It is supposed to be a part of your being, it should be comfortable and you are supposed to like it overtime. A good wheelchair is supposed to have a soul, it is your greatest companion.  

Most of the wheelchair users I know do not like their chairs. To them, these chairs represent everything that is wrong and broken in their lives. How can you like something that bruises you and makes your life miserable that it already is? There is simply no education about shopping for wheelchairs and getting the chair that fits you best and caters for all your needs. What we do, is walk in to a shop and buy the chair nearest to the entrance. If we can even afford it in the first place.

Besides price, you have to consider many things before procuring a wheelchair. What are the needs of the user? What is their height, weight, the weight of the chair, is it practical, is it detachable, does it need a backrest?

I guess we can put all these things into consideration because the pickier you get with a wheelchair, the greater the expense you incur. My parents bought me my first wheelchair for almost 30k. That was the most basic type, it was bulky, heavy, difficult to assemble and not at all appealing to the eye. My second wheelchair was a gift from my uncle. It was light, made from aluminium, had tubed wheels so it was less bumpy, it was sleek and i really liked it. The chair I now use cost around 150k and that was in second hand. It works for me because it is powered, it is durable and reliable especially with these village roads but again, it weighs 130kilograms. It is alot of stress to load it into the car, you need at least three people. It is too much work.

One size doesnt fit all, if you have a desire to donate wheelchairs please dont just give them out for the sake of it. Do a little research and find out who would benefit most from your kind gesture. The wrong wheelchair can do a little good but more harm.

Brian Muchiri Waihenya

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