I have been a wheelchair user for over 20 years and recently started my own business teaching manual wheelchair skills. I had become acutely aware of the need for such a service, particularly amongst adults with degenerative conditions, and have found that many people value learning the vital skills to overcome daily environmental challenges from someone who is, like them, dependent on a wheelchair for everyday mobility. As it is a new business I was keen to expand my knowledge of the field to ensure I offer a quality service to my clients.
In the early years after sustaining a spinal cord injury (SCI), I wasn’t aware of the importance of looking after myself; this resulted in poor health and bad posture. Unfortunately, I learnt the hard way. I therefore found it reassuring to learn at the PMG Conference that services are focusing on the importance of maintaining good posture and using the best mobility products possible to improve comfort, independence and quality of life. It was exciting to hear about the research and new developments, and to see all the products to aid quality of life for people with disabilities.
On arriving at the venue and seeing the scale of the International Convention Centre, it was very helpful to be welcomed by the well-presented security staff on hand to direct and support visitors. In the exhibition hall my stand was clearly visible, and I was confident delegates would be able to find me. Interest in Freedom Wheelchair Skills (FWS) was continuous throughout the event, with professionals working in different areas coming to discuss their clients’ needs and the potential for developing their wheelchair skills. It was very positive that delegates were able to learn about the FWS training which can, I believe, result in clients becoming less dependent on others and safer in using their wheelchair, and also that many delegates took away FWS flyers.
The welcome event held at Marmalade (pictured) was a good opportunity to chat and get to know other exhibitors. This expanded on the connections with several delegates that I had made earlier in the day at the Speed Networking event. The Gala Dinner offered a further opportunity to network in a relaxed environment, getting to know peers in the same field. It was good to hear about what other services and businesses are offering, and I hope people benefited likewise from hearing about FWS.
I particularly valued the lecture by Tom Paulson on Understanding propulsive shoulder forces and scapular kinematics during manual wheelchair use. It gave me a better understanding of the impact of incorrect pushing techniques on upper limb function and pain. As a result, I now emphasise to my clients the importance of maintaining the correct technique when propelling their wheelchair, and am able to provide clear reasons as to why this is essential.
I also attended the workshop What can developments in the WHO Wheelchair Service Training Packages and the International Society of Wheelchair Professionals bring to the UK. It was extremely interesting to hear about Motivation, who facilitated the session, and the work they do overseas. One major impact for me from attending this session was the confirmation of the importance of having the right chair to suit individual needs, and I am now excited by the potential of working more collaboratively with wheelchair services.
From attending this year’s PMG Conference, I have increased my network of contacts and become more aware of the needs of people who have mobility and posture issues due to a disability. I hope that the new links made will lead to more people accessing the skills training on offer from FWS which I believe can increase people’s independence and confidence.
Photograph courtesy of Suzie Hunt