I am in the process of being measured and fitted for a new wheelchair and it is a draining experience. What tyres would you like? What brakes would you like? What angle do you want your spine tilted at? What colour do you want? Do you want mud guards? Do you want arm rests? How high do you want your knees raised? How long do you want the seat to be?
I am being measured in centimetres and inches. I am thoroughly being examined.
Every other day, I can brush off the fact that I am in a wheelchair but when you have to describe to the millimetre what you need, you’re being asked to look at things that you normally try to brush past and forget. Or, if you don’t know what you want, you are being told what other people have and it’s suggested that you go with it.
I made the grave error in asking for an arm rest that’s strong enough for me to sit on at concerts. Being at crotch level means that I need an extra bump to see the stage so this request makes sense to me. “You’re not meant to be sitting on arm rests. They’re not strong enough.” Oh, Lord! If they saw me swinging out of the arm rests during Kelis’ set at Electric Picnic this year or even sitting on them so I can reach the wine glasses on the top shelf in my kitchen, then they would know that they’re doing the job.
The initial design of a wheelchair is never my actual intention. I have said so many times that there is no blueprint for disability. I am in no way delicate. I fling myself about. I climb, I roll and I tumble and I need a chair that can do all of that with me.
Getting fitted for a wheelchair is like being fitted for a permanent office chair. It’s in a fixed position so what you order is what you will be sitting in for the majority of the day. In work. In the pub. Walking down the street. Going to your friend’s house. Stumbling home at 6am. Your permanent office chair is there and you want it to be perfect. You don’t want to feel restricted by your chair and in my case, when the chair is lying flat on its back on a beach and me roaring laughing, you don’t want your chair to prevent whatever unplanned rolls and tumbles that lie in your future.
Imagine being presented to a plastic surgeon and being told the options of what you could change about your body. Initially, you don’t think that you have any body issues but when the list goes on and on…well, you definitely don’t feel like a Kardashian by the end of it.
Unfortunately, so many people look in the mirror and do not like what they see. Sadly, today is one of those days where I have to stare at my reflection and examine every square inch of me and the chair. It’s the grand admittance of having a chair. It’s not just me anymore. I come with spokes, wheels and – rules be damned – soon I’ll come with arm rests strong enough to sit me and whoever is sitting on my knee.