Usually when I’m just popping down to the local shops I take my walking frame Martha instead of my wheelchair. It’s not exactly a large area and it’s fairly flat (although there are a few cobbles) so I can usually manage to walk around. Granted, my friends and I will usually pay a visit to one of the little cafés for a cuppa and a cheeky slice of cake so we can sit down, but somehow I don’t think that has anything to do with me not being able to walk as far as them.
Last week though, for various reasons, I went there with the wheelchair and left Martha behind, and I was amazed at just how strange it felt. I’ve had Cerebral Palsy all my life and have had a wheelchair since I was 12; so although I spend most of my time using a walking frame, using a chair sometimes isn’t anything new. I still take it on my trips further afield and to my boyfriend’s house, given that he lives up two rather large hills which are struggle for me on a good day, let alone a not-so-good one.
Yet, that day in town, things felt a bit alien for the first hour or so. Everything seemed far higher up that I remembered and I felt really small, even though this would all feel completely normal and natural if I were going somewhere else that I would usually need to use my wheelchair. The thing that shocked me most of all was how much harder it was at first for me to hear what my friends were saying, because I’m used to being stood up next to them.
All this got me think about how I see the world differently depending on which set of wheels I’ve opted to use on any given day, and I did wonder if I perhaps take the fact I use Martha so often for granted, although, admittedly, it has taken a long time (and a lot of hard work) to get there. That’s a post for another time, though.
The difference in my height sitting in the wheelchair and me being stood up is probably quite small because I have to use a booster cushion, but it was still enough for me to notice because I’m just not used to using it in my local town centre anymore. Then, someone almost landed on my knee because they weren’t paying attention to where they were going. That hasn’t happened for a while.
Maybe I should spray paint my wheelchair bright blue too?