Two things that don’t really go well together are motorized wheelchairs and RAIN. Snow is even worse — many people in wheelchairs become stuck at home because their chairs can’t navigate snow. One of the reasons many of us look forward to summer in Vancouver is that there is usually less rain — and it is warm, daylight is long, and everyone just seems happier!
All of the residents here at Pearson use a wheelchair — either motorized or manual. Motorized wheelchairs are much heavier and can be operated in a variety of ways. The most common is a kind of joystick operated by hand. Some people can’t use their hands or arms, so operating a chair can be done with something commonly called a “sip ‘n’ puff”. Assistive technology can enable someone with a disability to focus on their abilities.
The wheelchair is really really important — it is a person’s mobility; it gives you the ability to move yourself around. If you can’t turn your head, you need to turn your wheelchair to see something. You don’t really notice the freedom of mobility when you have it, but when you lose it, you sure do. Sometimes you have to stay in bed if you get a bad pressure sore that won’t close up, or for other reasons. Technology can help there too, with environmental controls connected to lighting, heating, TV and computer, for example.
Some folks who live at Pearson are able to push themselves in a manual wheelchair but here the main hallway is a long climb — it runs 150 metres (about 490 feet) at a slope is that is 7 degrees away from flat ground. The railings aren’t totally continuous (almost!) so you risk rolling backwards as you transition from one railing to the next. At least there is a mattress at the bottom of the hill, if you happened to roll to the end…
Bottom line is…mobility is a right that most people take for granted, rushing from one thing to another. But if you think about it, not being able to mobilize physically should not mean you have to sit in the same place all day long — having a disability is not the same as committing a criminal offense!