Like most disabled people gravity is my enemy. I’d love to be weightless. I really resent that millionaires whose legs work ok can afford to go into space and experience it!
Why can’t I have a personal drone to hover me in a comfortable chair around the Thanet coast?
More realistically I always promised myself that if gravity got the better of me, I’d become a pavement racer in the snazziest mobility device I could lay my hands on.
The time has come to look for wheels as my legs are rapidly giving up on me. But what to get, and where to begin?
My GP referred me to several services and I got a list of local suppliers of scooters and wheelchairs. It seems easier to get equipment to prop up your disability than to get a hospital appointment that may solve a lot of it. But I’m grateful for any help I can get.
So you get a list of local companies, you ask your disabled friends for what to avoid, and off you go into a minefield of choice.
If you have a garage you can get a large, more stable vehicle that can go on roads and pavements and get you a few miles from home. But I don’t drive and don’t have a garage. I’d have to park outside, not ideal for an electric vehicle. And how far do I really want to go?
So I’m looking at beginner versions that would fold up and go through my back gate and into the house, and collapse into a taxi for more ambitious expeditions.
There is a bewildering range and all of them eye watering in price. You’re in for possible expenditure of £2-3000 to buy new and the cheapest reconditioned I’ve seen so far is around £500. ‘Blimey! That’s what I paid for my car!’ said my gobsmacked friend, having just said: ‘don’t spare any expense, just get mobile again.’
They are nice little things, though. Takes me back to the go-carts of my fifties childhood. They all look a bit home made, souped up supermarket trolleys rather than Harley Davidson. A bit low on glamour!
I’ve tried out three so far.
Basically, You sit in a chair with handle bars and the speed controller is on the handlebars. But because it’s light and folds or dismantles easily, you don’t feel quite secure rattling over pot holes and dropped kerbs that aren’t dropped enough – there are far too many of those in Thanet. The beach, of course, is taboo in Broadstairs with the lift shut because the slopes to the beach are too steep for most small scooters with cowardly riders.
One scooter I tried had its speed control in the same place as a bicycle brake. I never drove a car but I did have a huge red tricycle for a long time. It was good in London for frightening taxis and inspiring jolly banter – like ‘that’s a big bike for a little girl!’. Because we do like being patronised, we disabled ….
So having my accelerator where my old instincts thought the brake would be has led to few runaway moments.
But I will get a scooter soon because the pleasure of not using my miserable bones will outweigh my terror of tipping either myself or another wobbly pensioner into the gutter.
I’ll also be straight into a huge geography learning curve of safe routes for beginners and a lot of bad temper at the state of our local roads and pavements.
I had a bit of a revelation as I rattled along the cliff top on my try-out trolley. There in front of me was a bright green Lamborghini, so aerodynamic it could have floated off the road. Fancy, wildly expensive, designed to impress. The scooter gave a shudder as we passed and so did I. Is that the best use of our technology? Toys for the rich? Or aids to make lives easier for the fourteen million disabled people in the UK?