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International Wheelchair Day 2022 – We talk to Sophie Siddall

International Wheelchair Day falls on 1st March each year and is an annual day of events and activities which take place around the world celebrating the positive impact a wheelchair has on the lives of those who use them.

Since first launching in 2008, celebrations have taken place in Australia, Nepal, Senegal, South Africa, Bangladesh, Pakistan, United Kingdom and United States of America. This awareness day has grown year on year with 2022 looking to be bigger and better than ever.

To mark the occasion here at Fish Insurance, we have been chatting to one of our customers, Sophie Siddall, about how her powered wheelchair has made a huge difference to her life.

Here’s what Sophie had to say…

What’s your favourite feature of your powered wheelchair?

“My favourite feature of my wheelchair is the standing feature, I cannot explain how this chair has changed my life, by the press of a button I can stand!”

How long did it take you to choose your wheelchair, and why did you choose the one you have?

“I first heard about this chair from my physio as I was really struggling to not be able to stand without someone helping to transfer me into a standing frame. It got to the point where I had not used a standing frame for over a year, and I was at an age where having school staff strap me into a frame had a huge impact on my mental health. At the age of 17 I wanted some independence. I met James from Midshire Mobility through my physio who brought out the ‘Sit to Stand’ for an assessment, I immediately knew this chair would give me so much independence and change my life… my heart ached for it! Sadly, it wasn’t available on the NHS, so I had a fundraiser for it, as it cost £17,000.”

How has your powered wheelchair positively affected your life?

“The first major impact the chair has made is relief from pain, I have had back pain for many years due to sitting for most of the day and then only being able to take pressure of my coccyx by someone having to help me stand or transfer into a standing frame.

Having a chair that you can control yourself with no help from anyone is amazing. My confidence has grown so much now that I no longer need to ask for help reaching for stuff, and I can stand when I want to without the need for telling someone my back is sore.

I used to find this difficult as I didn’t like drawing attention to myself or people staring at me in the supermarket when I am struggling to reach items from the top shelves, I like to be as independent as possible and live my life to the fullest without pain. So many people take standing for granted, if you have an ache or cramp you immediately stand and stretch, when you do not have the ability to do that it can become very frustrating.”

What are your experiences in the wheelchair community?

“My experience in the community can be extremely frustrating. The biggest problem I have recently discovered has been whilst raising money for a charity by doing 100 miles in a month, I had to stick to main roads and every single day I came across cars blocking dropped curbs – there was in fact more streets without dropped curbs than with! I had to go to the end of a street just to cross the road, people park cars and don’t even consider wheelchair users and most powered chairs do not have curb crawls so getting up & down paths is very difficult.

The town I live in is also very limited on disabled access getting into shops, there is many smaller businesses with steps and although some staff will offer to come out to you this is not something I find helpful when you wish to browse. I do most of my shopping online for this reason.”

What do you wish non-wheelchair users would understand about using a wheelchair?

“My wish is for people to understand that we do not get everything handed to us on a plate. I have heard comments of people saying ‘you have a free car that you can change it for a brand new one every 3 years’, ‘you get free repairs’ – although this isn’t the case. What most people don’t understand is I myself cannot get into a standard car, I cannot walk or transfer, so I have to have a wheelchair accessible vehicle when most 22-year-olds have sports cars! Plus, they also don’t have the huge price to pay out on disabled equipment that is beneficial to our everyday lives.

If it makes disabled people’s life easier than a larger price tag is attached. We cannot decide to just travel on the train to go shopping, we must plan passage assistance, we cannot just book event tickets, we must check accessibility. We seem to have to fight for our rights to be able to go out with ease.”

What reassurance do your Fish Mobility Scooter Extra and Mobility Scooter Warranty policies give you when out & about in your powered wheelchair?

“Fish insurance gives me peace of mind that I always have someone available to help when I need them, if I’m at my most vulnerable and have a breakdown they are there to get me to safety 24/7. The biggest help for me is repairs I would never be able to afford repair bills for my wheelchair, it just would not be possible! But there is always a friendly voice on the end of the phone.”

To learn more about Sophie’s experiences in the disability community follow her Instagram account.

If you are celebrating International Wheelchair Day, we’d love to hear all about your events & activities or if you have enjoyed reading Sophie’s experiences and would like to share your own as a wheelchair user, email us at Sophie has the most extensive cover we offer for these products. Click here to learn more about our Mobility Scooter Insurance benefits or click here to learn more about our Mobility Scooter Warranty

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