Beth Irwin grew up on a large council estate in the Lake District in the mid-1990s surrounded by lots of children who didn’t necessarily understand what Cerebral Palsy was but, for some reason it never mattered. However, growing up, adults were never as accepting towards her disability.
The largely medical model attitude of disability often forced her into painful and restrictive splinting for the majority of her young life with the idea that a ‘normal’ looking foot would make her walking ability more aesthetically pleasing, but in reality, severely damaging Beth’s hip joints and making living a so-called normal life increasingly agonising.
The question Beth was always asked was and still is ‘can you walk?’ and never the more appropriate ‘how well can you walk?’ “If the latter had been taken seriously, I might have been able to express how difficult and exhausting it was, a wheelchair might have been considered much earlier, saving a hell of a lot of misery,” said Beth.
Unfortunately, however, the idea of a wheelchair was always shot down immediately because of the general consensus being that a wheelchair is a last resort. Categorically wrong as she later learned, the right wheelchair can be the gift of ultimate liberation.
Crown jewels of mobility products
Talking about her wheelchair experience, Beth said, “I had used a few terrible wheelchairs on a very temporary basis. A borrowed one from Disneyworld that had ‘property of Animal Kingdom’ written all over it. Another one from the NHS that similarly stated, ‘NHS Property’ and a pink one I bought from eBay for £50 that we screwed B&Q drawer knobs into the push rims so my CP-effected hand could push, and I would not just go around in circles (this did not work!).
“This was until I found Cyclone Mobility back in 2015, I had been on holiday with my heavy electric wheelchair, fed up with being stuck in the flat because the wheelchair kept getting caught on the smallest of uneven surfaces and nearly throwing me out and onto the concrete pavement. Because of this I began to research what was out there.
A few months later I travelled down to Naidex to have a look at the products available but as soon as I set eyes on the beautiful bright orange Batec Electric I knew that there was no going back, I’d found the Crown Jewels of mobility products.”
Fully independent wherever, whenever
Beth continued, “I now know the value and freedom of having a different perspective on life. As a result, I have accumulated a variety of assistive devices (with the help of the Access to Work scheme) that I can now categorically say I could not live without.” These include:
- GTM Challenger wheelchair
- Batec Electric hand bike
- Off road wheels
- Spinergy everyday wheels with natural fit push rims
- SmartDrive MX2+ power assist add-on drive system
“One thing that Cyclone taught me is that in order for a mobility device to suit all aspects of modern-day living, you must think of it as a Swiss army knife with different pieces for different days.
“So, I use my Batec for off-road adventures with the family and dogs and the Smart drive for everyday getting out and about, saving my shoulder joints in the process! So far that ideology has served me well; going from needing someone around me to being fully independent wherever, whenever!
Bespoke wheelchair reduces chronic pain
“My new GTM Challenger has been another game changer, a lot more bespoke than my previous GTM Mustang it has already lessened my chronic pain. Something as simple as a lower back support and a higher foot plate can make such a difference in your ability to push effectively.”
Beth is now studying for a master’s degree in philosophy with the OU, aiming to go on to study for a PH. D in the near future. She concluded, “Life is good at the moment, but without Cyclone, their support and advice, life this way might have never happened. Before, despite a huge amount of pain and fatigue I would force myself to go out and live, now I just live (on wheels).”