From Stairs To Ramps: One Size Doesn’t Fit All When It Comes To Wheelchairs

Different types of wheelchairs. Image from

Last year I met a girl called Ida. She was eleven years at the time and her teacher had shared her story with me hoping I would help get her the assistance she needed. I was to go see her at school, but she hadn’t reported that day because of illnesses related to her disability. Her parents, without the luxury of missing one day at work, had her left her with a neighbour. I saw Ida for the first time in a red dress, her skin was as dark as her countenance. She looked sad, too sad for a little girl.

My heart sunk when I laid my eyes on her, she was on an old dusty wheelchair meant for a person twice my size. My size, not hers. Her teacher had shared with me that Ida didn’t have legs and that is why she needed a wheelchair to get around.

But Ida had legs.

Since she had such an oversized wheelchair, her feet couldn’t reach the footrests because they were too far away and her legs weren’t long enough, she is just but a child. The practical thing to do was to get rid of the footrests since she didn’t need them and fold her feet on top of each other in a way that they rested on the seating area. Once the feet were in that position, all she needed to do was pull her skirt over her feet and to anyone looking it seemed like she had no legs.

A wheelchair is supposed to be the thing that liberates you from paralysis and immobility. It is supposed to be a part of your being, it should be comfortable, and you are supposed to like it over time. A good wheelchair is supposed to have a soul, it is your greatest companion.

Most of the wheelchair users I know do not like their chairs. To them, these chairs represent everything that is wrong and broken in their lives. How can you like something that bruises you and makes your life more miserable then it already is? There is simply no education about shopping for wheelchairs and getting the chair that fits you best and caters for all your needs. What we do, is walk into a shop and buy the chair nearest to the entrance. If we can even afford it in the first place.

Besides price, you must consider many things before procuring a wheelchair. What are the needs of the user? What is the height and weight of the person? What is the weight of the chair? Is the wheelchair practical? Is it detachable? Does it need a backrest?

I guess we can put all these things into consideration because the pickier you get with a wheelchair, the greater the expense you incur. My parents bought me my first wheelchair for almost 30k. That was the most basic type, it was bulky, heavy, difficult to assemble and not at all appealing to the eye.

My second wheelchair was a gift from my uncle. It was light, made from aluminium, had tubed wheels so it was less bumpy, it was sleek, and I really liked it. The chair I now use cost around 150k and that was in second hand. It works for me because it is powered, it is durable and reliable especially with these village roads but again, it weighs 130 kilograms. It is a lot of stress to load it into the car, you need at least three people. It is too much work but it has made my life much easier.

One size doesn’t fit all, if you have a desire to donate wheelchairs please don’t just give them out for the sake of it. Do a little research and find out who would benefit most from your kind gesture. The wrong wheelchair can do a little good but more harm.

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Brian Muchiri is a passionate writer who draws his inspiration from the experiences in his own life and of those around him. He is candid and he seeks to inspire society to be more pro active and vocal about the social issues that affect us. Brian is also actively involved in pushing for awareness and inclusion of people with disabilities through his foundation; Strong Spine.