Confession. I don’t know how to put my wheelchair together. I mean, I understand the general placement of everything (big wheels in the back, small wheels in the front) but that’s about as far as my wheelchair maintenance knowledge takes me. When my legs were my main form of mobility I didn’t need to worry about nuts, bolts, lubricant and flat tires. Now, maintaining my mobility equipment requires a little bit more effort and know-how. At least that’s what my husband keeps telling me.
I was born in 1987. Growing up I never felt as though I was less than any boy or any man. I knew I could grow up to be whatever I wanted to be and that I was in charge of what my life would look like. I never shied away from what I thought or what I wanted out of my marriage. And I was very clear with my husband that what I wanted was to never have to deal with spiders and have to use tools. Just because I’m capable of doing something doesn’t mean I have to. That’s why in our house there are blue jobs and there are pink jobs. Anything that requires tools (or spiders) has been designated a blue job. I swear I’m not doing it to hurt any sort of women’s movement; there are plenty of tasks in our house that are not as gender stereotyped. And I get that some women are handy people. But I’m not. Except now I’m starting to think I may need to become one. In the most minimal way I can manage.
See I’m not exactly proud of myself for never learning how to complete simple maintenance on my wheelchair. I understand that it really is something I should know
how to do. At the very least I should know how to change a flat tire. I’ve gotten away with being blissfully unaware of the ins and outs of it for a while. Becoming paralyzed has a way of giving you an automatic ‘pass’ for things you don’t care to do. And, in all honesty, my husband seems content to go on keeping my chair in working order on my behalf – probably because it is one of the few things regarding this disability he has control over. But even if he continues to do the bulk of the maintenance for me (because he’s wonderful) I should still learn how. Whoever thought my necessary life skills would include wheelchair care?
Whether or not I want my life to include it, I need to be prepared in case my knight-in-shining-armour/hubby-in-jeans-and-a-t-shirt isn’t around. I can picture my friends sitting around on the ground searching “How to fix a wheelchair” on YouTube while I claim ignorance because I never took the time to learn a few basic techniques. Because in reality, tires go flat, wheels need replacing, castors need cleaning, bearings need changing, brakes need checking and the moving parts all need oil. It’s also apparently a good idea to make sure there aren’t any loose screws or bolts. I frequently picture myself wheeling along just to have my chair fall to pieces beneath me. Funny in concept but in reality I imagine not all that delightful. (Side note: if you were to witness such an event, I give you full permission to come to my rescue. And laugh once we have established that I’m not hurt).
Since I’m nearing almost 2 years of being in a chair, it is probably time to take a crash course in wheelchair maintenance. Just in case. Luckily I know a guy who has some experience. He will have to start by showing me where we keep the tools and spare tires.
If you are looking for more information on proper wheelchair maintenance, check out this checklist from Spinal Cord Injury Ontario.