It has been another week of skills training, helping individuals build confidence and independence. The most recent wheelchair skills session was with a client who had suffered a stroke. Walking was made difficult, and hypersensitivity didn’t help. She contacted me two years ago to inquire about skills training, but the local Wheelchair Service did not supply an appropriate wheelchair.
Wheelchair Service had supplied a wheelchair ‘which ticked all the boxes’. One she would be able to get from A to B in. But not with ease or confidence. Aesthetically wasn’t helping either. It didn’t create the image of an independent wheelchair user.
Time moved on
Two years later, with a lightweight wheelchair, the client called to say she was ready to arrange the skills training. She now had her Active User wheelchair, and a friend was available to accompany her as a spotter on the day of training. So we discuss suitable dates.
The hall where wheelchair skills training happends
The hall I hire, nestled in the Chiltern Hills, is a 250-year-old church hall. It was brought up to standards to comply with the DDA (Disabled Discrimination Act). But it still has some of its original features. 250 years ago a wheelchair user may not have been expected to use the church or halls, so there would have been no need to arrange ramps and an accessible washroom.
Making sure wheelchair skills training is available for everyone who needs to use a wheelchair for their mobility, doesn’t just relate to the client ability to travel to me, but it could be the best option as the hall has everything I need. At the client’s location, there might be a limit on what can be taught due to the fact that the environment isn’t suitable.
After discussing training dates during the assessment call with the client, I contact the hall to check available dates. Once replies have gone back and forth, sometimes over a couple of days, all parties finalise a date, and T’s & C’s documents are signed.
Booking confirmed, commencing skills training
It is a grey August day, and the clouds are threatening rain.
After manhandling training equipment into the hall, I sit outside and wait for the client, enjoying the peace and quiet. She has been travelling some distance anti-clockwise around the M25 towards me. The gardener turns up to tidy the graveyard, and we make small talk.
After a few moments, the client pulls up in the car park and disembarks the car. She makes her way towards me sat waiting outside the hall foyer at the top of the ramp. As I wait for her to come to the ramp propelling herself towards me, I take note of her pushing technique.
With greetings between us completed, we get straight on with developing her skills.
Her wheelchair skills are pretty good; she is a physio, aware of the dynamics of the body, and has some knowledge of using a wheelchair. But there is some tweaking required for her skills to become more effective.
Before the training, during the assessment questionnaire, where the client and I talk about individual needs, goals and abilities – these details help plan the training – the client’s confidence was 6/10. The main skills she wanted to be more confident at were kerb descent and back wheel balance (BWB).
After spending time reffing the pushing technique and building confidence letting the wheelchair roll without hands touching the rims, we look at lifting the front casters, stationary and while in motion. Once this skill is mastered, we took on BWB. Using different surfaces, tile, carpet and grass, to practice and after some refind tuition, BWB was conquered.
It might seem aimless going through basic skills, forward pushing for example. But being able to do these fundamental skills with reliance helps further skills become easier to conquer.
With success, wheelchair skills complete
The skills training went well. The client left with skills that would enable her to use her wheelchair effectively. Being able to descend kerbs with confidence will make all the difference when out and about with her friends and family.