The Simon Heng Column – 5 October 2006

There’s a standing joke among people with physical disabilities – and, I would guess, people with sensory impairments – what’s in your cupboard?

We ask the question with a wry grin, because  each of us has a collection of gizmos and gadgets which someone thought would be helpful – an occupational therapist, well-meaning relative or an opportunistic salesman – and which ended up being more trouble than they were worth. When I still had the use of one hand (and I could still stand), I accumulated a small mountain of aids – extendable grabbers, exotic cutlery, banana boards (for transfers), toilet frames and adapted toilet seats. If it was going
to give me more independence, I wanted it.

Nine-tenths of this ended up in my cupboard, or was sent back to the ever-resourceful equipment loans store. Incidentally, our  local equipment loans store has an unparalleled reputation for recycling more than 100 per cent of its stock, by making sure that most of its equipment is reclaimed from people’s cupboards so that the next person, and the person after that, can try it out – it’s a pity that the rest of the NHS isn’t as efficient.

Since I lost the use of all of my limbs, the toys on offer have become more hi-tech: hoists, through-the-floor lift, electrically powered wheelchair, electrical page-turner and voice-activated software, to name the most essential. I refused environmental controls because there is too much to go wrong; I had nightmare visions of being trapped in my house alone when (not if) the front door electronics failed.

For me to lead an active life, my gadgets are almost as important as my personal assistants, and that’s why I’m writing about equipment this week. My wheelchair, lift, adapted vehicle and PC all developed serious faults, so I had to spend most of my time arranging visits from various engineers, and waiting for them to arrive. It’s one of the things that makes me almost unemployable: how do I explain to a potential employer that, at any time, I might need a week off work to wait in for the
repair men.

More from Community Care

Comments are closed.