When you see a child using a wheelchair, you might feel sad for them.
But they are, most likely, not sad at all.
International Wheelchair Day is intended to be a celebration of the positive impact a wheelchair has on the life of the user.
Some people might think that is an odd thing to celebrate.
I know that many parents find it hard to see their child using a wheelchair for the first time, but I never did. I was simply delighted to see my son sat beautifully, suddenly able to interact with the world and able to explore the things which interested him.
I was happy.
I didn’t see my baby in a wheelchair, I saw my baby come to life thanks to that wheelchair!
I wished he didn’t need a wheelchair.
I wished he could sit unaided.
I wished he could stand.
I wished he could walk, run, climb and jump.
I wished his life could be less difficult.
And I still wish for all those things for him.
But at the same time I am so thankful that he has amazing wheelchairs which ENABLE him to do things he could not do otherwise.
And we should celebrate them!
The day also aims to celebrate the work done by the millions of people who are involved in providing wheelchairs, in supporting wheelchair users and in making the world a better and more accessible place for people with mobility issues.
Special thanks to all those who are working hard to make Changing Places toilets a standard feature in life because without an accessible toilet, a place simply isn’t accessible.
On a less happy note, the day is intended to acknowledge that there are many tens of millions of people across the world who need a wheelchair, but who are unable to have one.
Most people are probably thinking of less well developed countries for that last point but there are actually many people in the UK who cannot get the wheelchair they require.
Without the kindness of many people, my own son, a child who cannot walk at all, would not have the right wheelchairs to meet his needs.
You only have to use social media to see many families and individuals fundraising for wheelchairs. Many are refused a wheelchair in this country because they can walk indoors or because they can self propel inside their own home. There is no consideration to whether they can get to the shops, or go out with friends or get to work. Others cannot get the chair which would meet their needs or the needs of their carers.
When we first approached the proper services for a powered wheelchair for Adam we were told that they wouldn’t consider him for one till he could prove he could use it fully and safely. They couldn’t answer the question of how he would ever prove that without actually having one.
Yet with movement came improved speech, more interest in the world around him, self esteem and joy. As well as the ability to be a bit naughty, and that is priceless when you are a small child!
As is the ability to take a short stroll with a friend.
I celebrate the joy of the wheelchair every time I see my son move.
I still wish he didn’t need it but I am so very glad that he has it.