Out and about on a wheelchair

Getting out and about with a baby or young child is an everyday activity for parents. For many disabled parents this can pose an extra challenge. For parents who are wheelchair users, finding a solution is essential for their independence.

Back in 1993, DPPi ran a feature called ‘Who’s carrying the baby?’ tackling this important issue and the lack of a commercially available baby carrier for attachment to a wheelchair.

Over the years we have explored the experiences and views of many parents who are wheelchair users. Here we highlight one parent’s experience and give details of further information.

The school run

In May, Lisa Cornhill from Sidcup in Kent, a parent who is a wheelchair user, wrote to us sharing her experience of being unable to participate in the school run. This highlights the fact that finding suitable solutions remains a key issue.

"I am a disabled parent with a two-year-old girl, Katie and a five-year-old boy, Luke. I rely on other mums from my son’s school to take him and pick him up from school, and I also get help from my family. But this can get very frustrating because I want to be the one who takes him.

"My husband, who is a godsend, pushes me around with Katie on my lap with a strap around her and me, because if she walks beside us she might wander off (as toddlers do). Katie will be starting playgroup sometime next year so that is another journey I will have to consider.

"At the moment I am looking into getting a scooter so that I can take Luke to school and also take Katie to playgroup. She will once again sit on my lap with a strap around us. I have tried many scooters but none seem to cater for a mum with two young kids!"

In August, Lisa updated us to say that she had found a scooter but was now facing new difficulties.

"In June, I purchased a mobility scooter from my local dealer. I now have the freedom to take Luke to school with Katie strapped to my lap with a suitcase strap to keep her safe. But my dilemma doesn’t end there. Unfortunately I cannot get my scooter out of my front door and porch, so I have to rely on my husband to get my scooter out every day. I’m now having some building work done so that I can drive my scooter in and out on my own. I can’t wait!"

Lisa’s story also demonstrates the importance of accessible housing, as discussed in the research feature in this issue, and raises potential safety considerations:

  • When carrying a baby or child on a wheelchair or scooter, it is important that parents test the arrangement on all terrains, with someone else present, until confident.
  • All wheelchairs and scooters have a maximum carrying weight – you can get advice from your supplier or wheelchair service.
  • Carrying a baby or child on a wheelchair or scooter will have implications for weight, stability and manoeuvrability – you can get advice from an occupational therapist.

Shanta Everington, DPPi Information Officer

Adaptive equipment: UK sources and resources

Remap is a charity which designs, manufactures and supplies technical equipment to disabled people free of charge where no commercial equipment is available or suitable. Various groups (panels) exist throughout the UK. Remap will modify commercial equipment to suit someone’s personal needs. It has made various wheelchair baby carriers and other adaptations for disabled parents who are wheelchair users.

For more information, telephone 0845 1300 456 or e-mail info@remap.org.uk

Bath Institute of Medical Engineering (BIME) is a centre for research into medical and rehabilitation engineering. A team of engineers and a therapist work with disabled people to design and manufacture solutions. BIME is currently working on a prototype wheelchair baby carrier. Commercial versions should be available soon. For more information, telephone 01225 824103 or e-mail bime@bath.ac.uk

New DPPi publication: carrying a baby or child on a wheelchair

DPPi has recently produced a new practical information sheet called Carrying a baby or child on a wheelchair. This discusses parents’ solutions, strategies and ideas for carrying babies and young children on wheelchairs and scooters, including possible adaptations, alongside a list of important safety considerations. It also gives details of useful organisations and websites for further advice. Available in a choice of formats: free to disabled parents, £5 to others.

First published in Disability, Pregnancy & Parenthood international, Issue 51, Summer 2005.

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