When we think of someone “independent,” several images may come to mind. We might imagine someone standing on a mountain top with their hands outstretched or a powerful businessman in a corner office. But for many of us, independence simply means being able to take care of ourselves in our daily lives. And if you use a wheelchair, that goal may feel out of reach.
Don’t despair. Learning how to be independent as a wheelchair user is far from impossible. Using your ingenuity, you can live the life you’ve always wanted.
Obtain Reliable Transportation
Since the advent of the car, our society has come to rely on motor vehicles. Nowadays, we can’t easily hold a job or get groceries without one. Fortunately, you can look into a variety of wheelchair-accessible vehicles to suit your lifestyle. If you get a van, make sure you get one that loads from the side so you can access the driver’s seat.
Tip: Use Additional Modifications
If you have limited use of your legs, you may experience difficulty pushing the pedals, even if you can get to the driver’s seat. In this case, look for a vehicle with modifications, such as an extended foot pedal or hand controls.
Adapt Your Home Environment
While we can’t change everything in the world to be more accessible, we can adapt our home environment to promote independence as wheelchair users. Consider the following modifications:
- Lift bars installed next to the bathtub and toilet
- Smooth flooring
- Lift armchairs
- Roll-in shower
- Low furniture and appliances
Emphasize an open floor plan and get hardwood floors to make navigation painless.
Build Your Strength
Don’t let anyone underestimate how strong you can be. Building your physical strength will help you improve your health, open doors to social activities, and boost your confidence. Here are a few ways to build strength:
- Start an arm-based workout routine
- Hire a personal trainer
- Join community leagues for wheelchair-based activities, like wheelchair hockey or dances
You can start slow when it comes to exercise. The more you do it, the stronger you’ll become.
Do What You Love
Shakespeare once wrote, “Above all else, to thine own self be true,” and there is wisdom in that expression. One of the biggest obstacles holding us back from true independence is a lack of confidence. But if you want to do something, chances are, there are ways to adapt the activity to make it possible. With that mindset, you can do just about anything.