Freedom Wheelchair Skills provides peer-led teaching of everyday skills and techniques to get the most out of life while using a wheelchair. The aim of Freedom Wheelchair Skills training is to help people become more confident in using a wheelchair, become less dependent on others and to show people how to overcome everyday environmental challenges. This is how it all began.
My name is Stuart Wheeler. I am the founder of Freedom Wheelchair Skills and this is my story. In 1993 I was a back seat passenger in a car when, unfortunately, the driver lost the road and crashed. I don’t recall the accident. I woke up from a coma a month later in The National Spinal Injuries Centre in Stoke Mandeville. I was 17, paralysed, and wheelchair-dependent. It felt like my life had to start again, learning how to look after myself, and basically live.
I first had a wheelchair skills lesson from a physio at Stoke when I was an inpatient. Being a boy, discovering I could do a wheelie in my chair (the back wheel balance) was very appealing. I quickly learnt how to negotiate curbs, thresholds and uneven surfaces through practice and making a lot of mistakes.
In 1999 I got involved with a Spinal Injuries Charity called Back Up and went on a couple of activity courses with them. Back Up then asked me if I wanted to be involved with a peer-led Wheelchair Skills Training project they were starting. The aim was to learn how to teach people the skills they would need to use a wheelchair safely and to be more independent – I jumped at the chance.
Through this project I began to teach wheelchair skills to newly injured people with Spinal Cord Injury, in Spinal Centres and on courses run by Back Up around the country. I have gained Accreditation in Wheelchair Skills training through this work with Back Up.
For over 12 years now I have taught people the fundamentals of using a wheelchair, which has encouraged them to lead more independent lives. Having been approached by wheelchair users with a range of disabilities in my community, and asked if I could teach them wheelchair skills, I came to realise there are many more wheelchair users in the country that don’t get the benefits of peer-led wheelchair skills training. This is the reason I set up Freedom Wheelchair Skills, to give anyone who needs to use a wheelchair the skills they need to be confident and independent in their mobility.
I can teach essential skills to most manual wheelchair users, including efficient pushing technique, enabling the user to push further for longer with less effort, safe turning and reversing, and negotiating camber and rough terrain. Depending upon an individual’s ability I can also teach advanced skills including negotiating kerbs, steps and confident back wheel balancing.
Further information about the services available can be found at www.freedomwheelchairskills.co.uk or I am happy to be contacted to discuss your needs further on 07482 151537 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org