‘Good and Bad Wheelchairs’ For The Physically Challenged In Ghana

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When walking becomes difficult or impossible in one’s life due to illness, injury, problem related to old age or various forms of physical disability, a wheelchair becomes the main source of mobility.

The living conditions that are in need of a wheelchair for mobility include but not limited to spinal cord injuries (paraplegia, hemiplegia, and quadriplegia), cerebral palsy, brain injury, osteogenesis imperfecta, motor neurone disease, multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy and spina bifida.

Each of these conditions comes with its unique sets of needs regarding mobility. The conditions must be assessed differently and the concerned individuals need unique types of wheelchairs suitable for their unique conditions and existing physical abilities.

This article will focus on two major categories of the physically challenged group of the disability community: The Paraplegic (paralyzed from waist down) and the Quadriplegic (paralyzed from neck or chest down). These groups develop a level of physical ability over time especially in cases where the paralysis is as a result of an injury and not from birth.

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Paralysis caused by an injury to the Spinal Cord popularly known as Spinal Cord Injury (SCI) can be classified as Complete Condition (with very little to no recovery chances) or Incomplete Condition (with some level or complete recovery chances). In both cases, a large number of the victims have enough strength in their upper body to be able to achieve some level of independence using the right mobility aids such as a wheelchair.

Ability to achieve tasks at home by self is the greatest wish and achievement for every wheelchair user. The tasks range from getting in and out of the bed, to taking care of washroom needs. In order to achieve these tasks, one needs a wheelchair suitable for his/her physical limitations.

For those with enough strength in their upper bodies and having the ability to use their arms, they need a wheelchair with removal arm rests to be able to transfer to and from their chair by themselves.

For beginners in the transfer task, the height of the chair must match the height of the bed or anything they are transferring onto. This will facilitate an easy and successful transfer by lifting and sliding oneself using the arms and a sliding board if needed.

Here’s a video of an Incomplete Quadriplegic demonstrating how to do transfers using a wheelchair with removable arm rests and without a sliding board:

The physically challenged category of the disability community in Ghana lacks guidance in selecting wheelchair especially for the newly paralyzed.

Elsewhere in the world, the services of an Occupational Therapist is required to assess the condition of the disable and the right wheelchair will be selected accordingly.

The injured is mostly left to his/her family to decide on what wheelchair to pick for them. Many find themselves in wheelchairs with enough physical abilities to achieve tasks such as transfers, but they are stuck in wrong wheelchairs for their conditions.

Example of a bad wheelchair not suitable for self transfers:

Many wheelchair users be it from birth, after injury or old age can achieve a level of independence by doing tasks themselves at home and outdoors. The right wheelchair for each paralyzed condition is key to achieving this independence in order to improve one’s living condition.

Consult an Occupational Therapist and/or speak to peers in the disability community for guidance when picking a wheelchair for your loved ones or for the needy in the general public during donation programmes.

Author: Tairou Maman Askandarou, Founder and Peer Mentor at Spinal Cord Injury Awareness and Support Initiative, [email protected], 0242 55 08 15

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