Susie Mallett

Parent blog

Sunday 22 July 2012

Mothers …

'My Grandmother's favourite rose'  by Susie Mallett, Norwich, July 2012

… what would we do without them?

The newest technology makes, what seemed unimaginable just a few years ago, a real possibility. That goes for me, I use Email, Facebook and Skype to keep in contact with my eighty-five-year-old father and for tracing long-lost, distant cousins, I ride a wonderful state of the art cycle, and I long for an ipad to be arty on and to share with my clients too.  I and many others use all sorts of technology to take an active part in all aspects of our everyday life.

There are so many different types of mobile phone, computer, netbook, joysticks and switches available and so many different types of motor-powered wheelchair, bike and tricycle for people with motor disorders to chose from so they too can be just as active as I can, that it is impossible for me as a conductor to advice my clients anymore on what would best fulfil their needs. I need to refer them to the technology experts.

I was so impressed with the use of computer technology and the different pads, joysticks and switches used in a school that I visited last year in England. I am still so grateful for having had this opportunity to see for myself what is available. Through my observations there I now know that no one needs to make do with something that is not suitable for their needs and abilities. There is something out there somewhere to suit everyone, or if there is not, there is definitely an expert out there who is capable of developing it!

On two occasions recently I have watched a young lady trying her hardest to control two different motored powered wheelchairs, practising her skills on the private roads around the conductive centre where I am working. Trying to work out what she needs to be able to drive independently and safely.

I have known this young lady for sixteen years. We met when she was a babe-in-arms and now she is eighteen! She is a conductively brought up young lady and despite her very severe physical disability she is learning to use technology to take her out and about in the world.

A sign of the times

Not many years ago this young ladies life would be much more restricted her boundaries less far afield and certainly less independent. With practise and careful design the makers of her new wheelchair will come up with something that will allow a part of her jerky body, perhaps her fingers, her head or her feet, to steer her where she wishes to go.

When I spoke to her while she tried out the latest design we made a date to meet in the nearest café for a coffee and cake as soon as she could get there alone.

It was wonderful to watch how at eighteen-years-of-age this young lady is beginning to experience the mobility of moving herself from one place to another, completely unaided, for the very first time in her life. It is amazing to watch her and also to visualise what a world of new experiences and emotions that this development, with use of up to date technology, is going to open up to her. Her life will soon be transformed by a learning process that usually takes place when a toddler begins to take those very first steps towards independence.

It is never too late to learn

What would this young lady do without the amazing mum who she has beside her, and her Grandma who is always there for the practise runs?

Mum told me that with each new wheelchair that they have had to try out the first thing that she has done is to sit in it and take herself off to town. Not only does she ride the ten kilometres to town but she also does test runs around town, using the trams and the underground too.

When I heard this I was flabbergasted and really impressed. I had never dared to do this in all the years that I was with my wheelchair-user partner. I had used his chair around the house and to go to the local shop but never dared to travel such a great distance. I had never really tested how it is in the real world to travel with a disability, only as a carer.

This mum knew how each of the test-wheelchairs would function in whatever situation she and her daughter would come across while travelling in town. She knew how every bump in the pavement, kerb on the road and step into the tram would help or hinder her daughter’s freedom to travel.

The search goes on

A decision cannot be made too quickly. The health insurance will not pay for another new wheelchair for many years to come so the choice has to be right first time.

Whenever Mum, Grandma and daughter are on the road outside the centre making another test-run then the conductors are out in force with encouragement and praise, and also watching with just a little bit of awe at the determination of all three of these extraordinary ladies who are determined to take the technology of today to its limits.

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