Your car breaks, you get a rental car straightaway. Your wheelchair breaks, you wait for four weeks. Should wheelchair repairs be more timely? I think this answer has to be yes.
I want to start by saying it saddens me to have to write this because I never wish to criticize anyone, nor do I like to complain, especially against a service I rely on. However, the assistance I received from my wheelchair repair service was beyond poor and has left me feeling deeply disappointed that this is allowed to happen.
I have cerebral palsy and so am a full time wheelchair user. I am also a psychologist who has to get to work every day, just like everyone else. A Ph.D. student that strives to make university (despite those early lectures) just like everyone else. I want to contribute to and be a part of society, just like everyone else.
I use a powered wheelchair which allows me to get around independently. When it breaks, I am limited to the use of my manual chair which due to left-sided weakness, I can’t keep in a straight line (you can laugh, it is funny). What’s not funny though is that 48 hours later, I still have not been assessed and I still have no chair. The reason? “We aren’t paid for after hours service.” But when I do have an appointment after taking the day off work? “The engineer can’t visit because he can’t get parked.” Again I’m not angry, just sad.
I appreciate that my story is most likely a system problem rather than an issue at an individual level. I feel a strong responsibility to speak up about this so steps can be made to improve. As a person who worked for the NHS, I understand these services have to prioritize cases and often cover a very large area, but I feel some tweaks to the system are essential. Even if it started with something as simple as updating clients if there is to be a delay on their repair.
Another area to address could be increased awareness of disability for those who work on the repairs. For instance, previously when a engineer called I was asked, “how was the day center today?” Don’t get me wrong, a day center most certainly is a vital and often brilliant method of socialization for some people, but the key word there is “some.” This should not be an assumption. Again, I stress I know no harm was meant; he was just trying to be friendly. But a little more understanding of the diversity of his client base would be useful. Every human should be treated as you find them, disability or not. No one is lesser just because they live life differently to what you view “life” to be.
Despite these instances, my wheelchair repair service do eventually help me as needed — I just wish it wasn’t such a fight. I know they are just trying to do a job, but I’m just trying to go about my daily life. Surely some changes to the system would make life easier for all involved. Does everyone not deserve and benefit from an efficient, satisfactory service?