When I was six years old, I told my great-grandmother that, more than anything, I wanted new powerchair.
“That’s crazy talk,” she said, standing up from the couch where we both sat, pointing her finger at me. “A little boy should want a bike, not a wheelchair – you shouldn’t want something that you need like a wheelchair.”
While my great-grandmother’s frankness may have been well-meant, it certainly wasn’t accurate in my case, where a new powerchair was number one on my list, ahead of a bike or a room full of toys. What I knew even at that young age was that a new powerchair meant liberation, where improved mobility would take me beyond the present physical limitations of being all but housebound. For me, at that moment, a new powerchair certainly promised the freedom to go outside, away from Great-Granny’s old-world lectures.
As Great-Granny and my parents learned, when it came to my getting a new wheelchair, I was anything but patient, where I tossed and turned at night while waiting the three or four months that it took in those days to get a new powerchair. Time crept by, where I couldn’t think about anything else besides getting my new wheelchair. In school, I’d look out the window at a grassy hill, imagining my new powerchair taking me to the top. At home, I studied the brochure of my forthcoming wheelchair night after night till the pages were crumpled and torn from so much handling. And, during all times in-between, all I thought of was my new wheelchair, envisioning how it would handle in every environment I entered. After all, I wasn’t just getting a new wheelchair; I was hopefully getting a new way of life.
And, I was never disappointed. I remember getting my first powerchair, it taking me across the room like a magic carpet ride. I remember getting my second powerchair that had larger batteries than the first, so that I could stay outside playing longer after school. And, I remember getting my third, fourth, and fifth powerchairs, where painted colors, high-speed motors, and contoured seating propelled me ever farther. With each evolution of technology, each new wheelchair, my life changed, where I could go places previously inaccessible, where I could better interact with my peers in such ways as keeping up with them on their bikes, where the silver-on-black racing stripes and fast speeds made me feel more like a hot-rodder than the only disabled kid in my school. New wheelchairs weren’t simply part of life-long disability, they were tools of inspiration.
Today, I’m touched when a consumer asks me to track the order of his or her new wheelchair, wanting to know when it’s built, when it will ship, when it will arrive at the provider – that is, when it will take him or her across the room like a magic carpet ride. I can feel users’ excitement – I live the excitement – as I, too, can’t wait to see where their new wheelchairs take them.