by Anthony William, The Geordie Traveller
When I was a teenager my mum decided to quit her job as an auxiliary nurse and put herself through University on her own personal quest to become an Occupational Therapist. At around the same time as she embarked on this journey, she also decided it was high time our family home was adapted to accommodate me and my wheelchair.
I’d grown up as a youngster shimmying around on my hands and knees, getting around at breakneck speeds and essentially making do with my situation – but as I approached my adolescent years, my mum felt it was undignified for me to continue to just scoot around on all fours.
Renovations took around five months to complete, if memory serves me right, and that was including the necessary processes which needed to be taken in order to secure the funding needed through my own OT at the time. This took a bit of work as we’d actually had some alterations completed in the past, however, they didn’t really serve my needs fully and this time around, we wanted to create an open-plan space where I could easily zip around in my wheelchair and a space where I’d also be able to manoeuvre my wheelchair in the bathroom with little to no issues.
The changes made to my family’s home has had a great impact on my overall quality of life and above all, it finally afforded me the privacy I so desperately craved when wanting to use the bathroom. The previous alterations hadn’t given me much of an opportunity to shut the bathroom door whilst having my wheelchair in the room and so I had been forced to leave my chair outside the bathroom and crawl through on my hands and knees. The new bathroom, however, had enough space to host a small dance party and so I was free to do my thing in comfort and most importantly – alone. I’m sure I don’t have to tell you that for a teenage boy going through puberty, the latter was very important!
What’s more, the new alterations also meant that the kitchen was now at the back of the house and I also had ramped access to my home via the side of the building – which was a far cry better than having to crawl up two front steps at the front door and heave my wheelchair up behind me.
The new layout of the house also allowed for further extensions and we now have an enormous kitchen come dining room, which is a wonderful feature to our home environment.
Although my bedroom may still be upstairs, with no additional access provided for me, it is still a huge relief to have perfect accessibility on the ground level and it means that whenever we have guests come to visit, I am able to present myself in a dignified manner rather than on my haunches as I had been for many years in the past.
I am truly grateful that home adaptations are a viable option for disabled individuals and I can certainly speak from experience when I say that they really can be a life changer. The expect help offered by Occupational Therapists is second-to-none and I’m proud that my very own mother decided to follow the same career path!