Wheelchairs have been around for a long time. They have looked different over the years but people have always used wheelchairs. Going back to ancient China, Confucius was often depicted in one.
However, history also show many people with physical impairments were left without any kind of help and often had to crawl on all fours. Confucius was never made to crawl.
So what is the difference between Confucius and the common man?
Status, wealth, knowledge or a mix of all three?
It is not radical to suggest that if you have wealth and status, wheelchairs have always been there.
Have Things Changed?
So are wheelchairs still easily accessible for those with wealth and status, and not so much for those who haven’t?
I recently acquired this beast of a machine from RGK Wheelchairs .
Want to tell you how much it cost? Of course you do. The price was £4325 that price included one of these –
Now I am going to tell you how I paid for it and give you my thoughts on system. So here we go:
- £1200 came from the NHS voucher scheme.
- £2325 came from Access to Work.
- £800 came from my own pocket.
NHS Voucher Scheme
NHS Voucher Scheme
The NHS will either give you a wheelchair from one of their suppliers or give you the value in a voucher. My voucher was worth £1200. There is a few important things to remember with the voucher scheme:
- If you receive a voucher that wheelchair has to last for a period of 5 years. The only way that this changes is if your needs change (we’ll come back to that).
- You will be responsible for all maintenance of the chair and associated costs.
Getting Wheelchairs Through Access To Work
If you are either in part time, full-time or self-employed, Access to work can help you with the cost of purchasing a wheelchair. They will not contribute for the days that you do not work such as weekends. This is why I had to pay £800 towards my chair. You need to prove your employment either by a letter from your employer or providing your company information. A2W are nice and try their best to help wherever they can. It can seem like a lot of work but it is worth it.
So there are ways that you can get the price of wheelchairs down. However, for many who are out of work A2W is not an option and even paying £800 might too much.
So the question that I have been asking myself since I got my new chair is – do I really need to spend so much on a chair?
And the answer is YES – yes I do.
My wheelchair is sturdy, it is light and it can keep up with the active lifestyle that I lead. My wheelchair isn’t just a ‘pair of legs’ – it is integral to my look and persona. If I spend less on my wheelchair, then something has to suffer, the lightness, the sturdiness or the look.
Sacrificing any one of those things because of money is not acceptable. Being independent should not be about money. It is important that a person’s wheelchair can make them look good as much as any kind of functional thing.
Sitting in something that you like the look of is important. It makes you feel more confident about yourself. When I sat with the Occupational Therapist, the look and feel of the chair was sort of dismissed as extras. They are not – they are as vital as seat and wheels.
When I explained about my needs changing because of a change of employment – the OT dismissed that as leisure. Now I like my job but not that much.
Additional and changing needs is about more than wheels and a seat. If we are serious about supporting people to become more independent, then when it comes to wheelchairs – we need to think again.
The NHS needs to begin to think about needs change at different stages of life. 2 or 3 years down the line, what I need from my wheelchair might change. Not because my condition changes but because my life does.
On the manufacturing side, makers are doing to cut down costs and that is great, but they limited by economies of scale and the fact that a lot of chairs are made to measure. This is something that I feel government should look at.
All of us involved in the industry, need to think again when it comes to wheelchairs.