Wheelchairs: Don’t be scared, embrace them as friends  

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Neurologists and other doctors often face the same question from people to whom they have given their diagnosis of having multiple sclerosis, or another debilitating disease.

That question, usually asked immediately or at the next consultation, goes along the lines of “Will I end up in a wheelchair?” or, less hopefully, “When will I be in a wheelchair?”.

Though there is no answer that fits all, MS is not called the ‘snowflake’ disease without cause, I feel it is necessary to look at the question in two distinct parts. Firstly, the reality of the situation, the facts and figures, and ,secondly, people’s attitude to wheelchairs.

nmssThe facts: The USA’s National MS Society (NMSS) says: “The majority of people with MS do not become severely disabled. Two-thirds of people who have MS remain able to walk, though many will need an aid, such as a cane or crutches, and some will use a scooter or wheelchair because of fatigue, weakness, balance problems, or to assist with conserving energy.”

So, the good news is, most people with MS do not, and will not, need a wheelchair. But there are some, like me, who will need to use one. And that leads us into our attitudes, our feelings toward, even our fear of, wheelchairs.

I suppose it must come from such phrases as ‘confined to a wheelchair’ or ‘wheelchair bound’ that were common in the past and, regretfully, are still used by some today. I use a wheelchair, not through choice but because of my mobility issues.

Note that I ‘use’ a wheelchair. It does not confine me; I am not bound to it or by it. Actually, the reverse is true – it empowers me, it improves my independence, it eases many of the restrictions that would otherwise limit my activities more severely.

Tools to make life easier

It is vital that wheelchairs, and scooters for that matter, are looked upon as tools to help people with mobility problems to get around. They are not prisons, they are tools. I now consider myself to be wheelchair-enabled, think about it!


Mobility Plus is ideal for travel in a family car.

Going back a few years, I well recall my first outing on a scooter. Lisa and I drove to a local park in Colwyn Bay where we then lived. Lisa says she still remembers the look on my face as I realised my freedom to navigate the paths, to mingle with families, to see them at play, and to buy a cone from the ice cream van. Incredible, and that look that Lisa remembers? Pure elation.

In time, it became obvious that a scooter was not ideal for indoors, so it was time to move to an electric wheelchair that I can move by myself. In fact, I have two.


Titan AXS is superb in small spaces. The central drive wheels make it so easy to manoeuvre,

My everyday one is a Titan AXS, made by Drive Medical. It is used in and around our home and for short ‘walking distance’ trips. Its six wheels gives it the amazing ability to turn full circle in its own length, so it is great anywhere that space is a bit tight. Those same six wheels also make it easier to tackle obstacles. Its weight, however, makes a wheechair accessible vehcke if yu wish t transport it.

When I need to travel by car, my second chair comes into its own. It’s a Mobility Plus, and, though its  standard four wheel design s less agile than the AXS, it takes just seconds to remove the battery and fold the chair for stowing in the trunk.

There are numerous wheelchairs available to suit all needs and pockets.

Don’t be afraid, you won’t be disappointed. Trust me, they are life enhancing.

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Please note that being born in the UK, all my posts, are written using British English spelling.

For example:

Centre                              not center (except in names, Centers of Disease Control)                  Colour                              not color                                                                                                                      Diarrhoea                       not diarrhea                                                                                                  Haematology                not hematology                                                                                Haematopoietic          not hematopoietic

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50shadesofsun.com is the personal website of Ian Franks. He enjoyed a successful career as a journalist, from reporter to editor in the print media. He gained a Journalist of the Year award in his native UK. More recently, he was a freelance medical writer and editor for various health information sites. Ian received a diagnosis of MS in 2002 and now lives in the south of Spain. He uses a wheelchair and advocates on mobility and accessibility issues.

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Note: Health-related information available on 50shadesofsun website is for your general knowledge only. It is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment for specific medical conditions. Ian is not a doctor, so cannot and does not give you medical advice. You should seek prompt medical care for any specific health issues. Also, consult a doctor before starting a new diet or exercise programme. Any opinions expressed are purely his own unless otherwise stated.

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