Electric Wheelchair Assessment – Being assessed for disability aids is stressful enough, to say the least. When you’re faced with someone who is telling you what you do and don’t need due to your disability. This can be soul-destroying, frustrating, belittling and extremely angering! This was how I was made to feel when I was being assessed for my Electric Wheelchair!
I have been a full-time wheelchair user for over 15 years and I’ve had my disability (Arthrogryposis) since birth. I do believe that makes me an expert on MY disability, not anyone else!
Having had my previous electric chair for over 5 years, I was due to have this replaced. I, therefore, needed an assessment for a new wheelchair. This would be done at my NHS wheelchair service.
At my assessment, I was happily told by my clinician that I would be having the “Invacare Fox” wheelchair! This decision was made without any discussion with me. (This immediately set the tone for this assessment)! How did this decision get made without discussing this with the person who was actually going to use the wheelchair and finding out first, if anything has changed? Is this not the point of an assessment?
My clinician’s attitude was that of excitement as she totally believed The Invacare Fox electric wheelchair was the one for me. She brought the wheelchair out to me and immediately expected me to be as elated as her. Instead, I could tell immediately, this was not the chair for me!
I went with the flow and got into the chair. I told my clinician that the footrest hangers were digging into the side of my knees. Not a problem she said, this can be rectified by adding some padding to the shoulders. I explained this had been done on a previous chair and it only made matters worse. (I still have the indentations in my legs) and I showed her these.
She seemed put out and went on to say we could put cushions down my side. (Between me and the armrest guard). Again, I explained this would not be suitable as I self-transfer in and out of my chair regularly. The cushions would fall to the floor repeatedly and as I can not reach the floor, I would not be able to retrieve them.
Problem After Problem
The issues being presented, included armrests not being height adjustable, to which she claimed having one shoulder higher, will cause problems in the future. (So, the fact I need one arm higher to keep my back straight, to prevent pain is not relevant?) 15 years down the road and I am still not suffering any pain in my shoulder!!
She explained that another type of armrest could be fitted if I really wanted them height adjustable. Errmm I don’t “want” them I told her, I “need” them to be adjustable. I wasn’t willing to accept the chair until she confirmed the armrest could actually come adjustable. Guess what? They didn’t! Thankfully she didn’t mention sticking cushions to the armrests to make them higher!!
The backrest of the chair was tilted backwards and unable to be repositioned. Which meant I would be slightly reclined sitting in the wheelchair. Again, I need to be sitting as upright as possible, to prevent back pain. Clinicians response was to have a different backrest. She attached a different backrest that was one of the options for the chair. This backrest was completely uncomfortable and prevented a full range of movement.
So once again, rather than give in to the fact that this wheelchair was completely unsuitable. She suggested using cushions with the original backrest. She likes these bloody cushions!!
I was getting really fed up now, I told her that I would definitely NOT be having this chair. She banged on about not having any other suitable chairs for me and that budget didn’t allow for anything else. I said she (wheelchair service) had a duty of care to make sure any wheelchair supplied to me fits my needs. This chair didn’t, so she was going to have to sort it out.
As you can imagine, I was both disappointed and furious leaving my so-called assessment. When I got home, I phoned the wheelchair service to explain what had happened and requested another assessment, only this time with someone different.
Thankfully this is what exactly happened. I had an assessment with a different clinician. A lady I had dealt with many time previously and a sales rep from presumably one of their suppliers.
I was shown one wheelchair, unfortunately, it escapes my memory as to what it was called. This again was not suitable, the footrests were causing issues and no alternative option available for the chair. They then showed me an Invacare Spectra XTR2. When I sat in this, I immediately felt the difference. I was then told this particular chair came with tilt and recline. This would make all the difference for my back. (My Spectra XTR2 Review).
I rode it out to our car in the car park to make sure it would fit, (we had a Vauxhall Astra Sports Tourer at the time) and already had car ramps for my chair I was using at the time. Took a little while but we worked out how the chair would fit in the car. It was agreed that this chair was the most suitable for me and I could expect to receive the chair in a few weeks.
Attitude Is Everything!
Attitude is indeed very important. Here I was, having a supposed assessment for an electric wheelchair and I was told the decision had already been decided (without me) as to what chair I was going to receive!! No wonder I was peed off!!
My clinician came across like she was hell-bent on the fact that the Fox was the right chair for me and took whatever measures necessary to make it work. It didn’t seem to matter to her if this made my life more difficult and/or painful!! Trouble was, her solution was always the same, stuff a cushion there and problem solved.
Unfortunately for her, her attitude regarding the chair and me put me right off from the offset. I knew very early on that this was not the chair for me, so for a quiet life, I switched off and just went through the motions until I knew I couldn’t take anymore and decided to tell her so!
We all know how bad funding is in the NHS but this is NO excuse to decide what life-changing equipment a person is GOING to have BEFORE even discussing it with the client/patient etc.
I’ve had my fair share of sales-people try to force disability products onto me and I have learned the hard way to stick up for myself and this was why I said no to the Fox. I practically demanded another assessment with someone else and If I hadn’t, I may have ended up with a wheelchair that would have caused me no end of trouble and even severe pain in my back. Don’t be afraid to stand up for yourself. It is your health, your body that will be affected if you don’t.