Relying on strangers in a world built for able bodied

jpco-11-12-13 Nikki Cutler reporter's Wheelchair feature (Pic by Jon Rigby)

jpco-11-12-13 Nikki Cutler reporter's Wheelchair feature (Pic by Jon Rigby)

Reporter Nikki Cutler was invited to spend a morning with wheelchair users to see what difficulties they face in day-to-day life.

Equipped with a manual wheelchair, kindly lent to me by James Welling, of Tilgate, we set about taking a bus into town and doing a spot of Christmas shopping.

I promised James and Barry Tyndale, of Bewbush, that I would try to stay in the wheelchair throughout our trip.

But my promise was quickly broken. As soon as I left the safety of James’ home I found myself rolling toward the road and I had to put my feet out onto the ground to stop myself.

Once I was back on the pavement and wheeling myself along I found my chair was moving almost uncontrollably from left to right.

On asking James if his chair had a wonky wheel he replied: “You never realised how wonky pavements were before did you?”

He was right, I hadn’t, and negotiating every small crack, slant and cobble in the path, made the journey to the bus stop very draining.

James informed me we would need to take separate buses as only one wheelchair user could fit in at once.

My lack of technique was clear to the other passengers as they watched me attempt the ramp into the bus.

One quick thinking man even came running to my rescue to pull me in to the bus when my arm strength began to fail me.

Before we had even begun shopping I wearily requested that we find the refuge of a coffee shop and James and Barry invited me to lead the way.

I approached the shop and attempted to pull open the large heavy door but was unable to wheel myself back while holding the handle.

I had to rely on a passing member of public to kindly hold the door open for us while the diners inside seemed irritated all the heat was disappearing because of our slow mobility.

As a reporter I usually enjoy making myself known to someone new but in the wheelchair I found it hard to shake the feeling of self consciousness when people approached me.

The sheer inability to move as quickly as those around me made me feel like I was constantly in the way or causing a nuisance.

I was exhausted by the end of our trip.

But James and Barry said they thought Crawley had good disabled access compared to other towns.

My thanks go to them for the eye opening experience and I hope members of the community continue to help them in the way they kindly helped me on the day.




Back to the top of the page