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TX: 26.03.04 DISABLED CHILDREN LEARN HOW TO GET THE MOST OUT OF THEIR WHEELCHAIRS

PRESENTER: JOHN WAITE

THE ATTACHED TRANSCRIPT WAS TYPED FROM A RECORDING AND NOT COPIED FROM AN ORIGINAL SCRIPT. BECAUSE OF THE RISK OF MISHEARING AND THE DIFFICULTY IN SOME CASES OF IDENTIFYING INDIVIDUAL SPEAKERS, THE BBC CANNOT VOUCH FOR ITS COMPLETE ACCURACY.


WAITE
Now as any wheelchair user will probably tell you there's more to manoeuvring the thing then you might think, in fact to master wheelchair skills you'll probably need guidance and practice. A national charity however says that many young people are missing out as they're not being shown by NHS services how to get the most out of their chair. So the Association of Wheelchair Children runs its own courses to help disabled youngsters become as mobile and independent as possible, teaching them how to tackle curbs and slopes and stairs. Our reporter Fiona Clampin went along to one of their courses in Torquay to find out what goes on, where she spoke to children, parents and the Association's chief executive Owen McGhee.

ACTUALITY
On your marks, get set, go.

MCGHEE
The first thing we do when we do a wheelchair course is we play a game and the game we prefer is called British Bulldog. So it's a game which encourages the children to move fairly quickly, as fast as possible, and to manoeuvre their chair. So it's a very important game for basic skills.

Most children who have wheelchairs can use them indoors. The main problem arises when they want to go outdoors, in particular things like crossing the road in their wheelchairs. We need to first of all establish what the right type of chair is because some chairs can't be used in that way. And secondly, we need to train the children to manage their chairs outdoors which really means going up and down curbs and up and down slopes - those are the two principle concerns. And to that end we try to teach them to back wheel balance a chair. So the acquisition of back wheel balancing is very, very important.

CHILD
My dad's always done make believe wheelies in my wheelchair, I've never actually done it myself. I would try to learn how to do it with mine but my wheelchair's just to heavy.

MCGHEE
That is why we bring with us on courses a large number of chairs because in fact most of the children who came to this course did not have chairs that could actually be used for this purpose.

CHILD
If I did have a different chair that was actually lighter I could actually go home and actually show my dad the actual tricks I've learnt but I can't seeing as my wheelchair is so heavy, I can't even do a wheelie on it.

ACTUALITY
Okay, are you ready?

Yeah.

Pitch it up and down. Up - good boy - down.

MCGHEE
Tipping the chair from a stationed position and moving it forward is what gets you down a curb. Moving along and then tipping the chair whilst it's moving is what gets you up the curb. And those two skills are used for getting over lots of different obstructions - it's not just curbs, it's ploughed fields, it's cobbled stones etc.

The problem with children is of course that most of them are born with a condition, they then use a pushchair, they're then given another chair which they tend to get pushed in, so there is no - I suppose - expectation that this child ought to become an independent wheelchair user. Our view, of course, is that we want the child by the age of 12 really to be independently moving around by themselves out in the streets and having the right chair and hopefully we want to make sure that the road safety aspects are also taken care of.

CHILD
I know that you have to look both ways before crossing the road for a chair, it's just wheelie bit that's new to me to try and do.

PARENT
The stairs was a real heart in the mouth and I thought no way because we have been trapped before now when there's been a fire drill in a shop and we just didn't have a clue of how to get ourselves out of the way. We weren't allowed to use the lift but in the end the manager of the shop decided that as it was a drill he was going to take us down in the lift because he didn't have a clue either. And I thought I'm glad it was a drill but it was a bad thing. So now we've got several options that we can work on if we find ourselves in that situation again.

CHILD
If I was stuck at school maybe where the lift was broken and they couldn't fix it easily and I was upstairs I could go down the stairs.

ACTUALITY
You have to open your eyes, with a big smile, ooze back gently - gently back. Well done.

CLAMPIN
There was one moment wasn't there where Owen tipped you right back in your chair, what was that like?

CHILD
Scary really, well for me it seemed scary, really I had to pull myself together.

PARENT
I think she's responded very well - I've just seen her wheel across the room. She actually suffers with quite a lot of fatigue so for her to concentrate for any length of time is difficult and she's managing to do wheelies and I think she would actually cope with getting up and down off a curb. And yeah, I think it's been really beneficial.

MCGHEE
It is much harder for us to persuade parents perhaps to think about in the future their children, say 12, 13, 14, able to go out by themselves. So it's very important that we demonstrate to parents that the child actually has the skill - they need to see it for themselves.

PARENT
It's nice to actually see him doing it in action because we can carry it on afterwards when this is finished, we'll know when we go home and we can encourage him and it will make him more independent which at the end of the day is the main thing - to make them independent of you so they can live a normal happy life.

WAITE
JeanRowland ending that report from the Devon riviera by FionaCamplin. And if you'd like to find more about the Association of Wheelchair Children and the courses they run across the country there's information on the You and Yours website and on our phone line 0800 044 044.





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