if all goes according to plan, i will soon have a new power wheelchair, allowing me solo access to the world outside my house. while i can get around downtown, or at the mall, or similar places in my manual chair, without someone to push, it is usually so difficult that it’s just not worth it. our local metro buses have wheelchair access, so if i can get to the closest bus stop, i can get myself downtown, the power chair will open up a lot of territory.

so i’ve been working with my insurance company (from whom i’ve received on different occasions, different answers to the same simple questions) and the very patient and helpful folks at my local shop, black bear medical. what i wanted was a power chair that could be disassembled or folded to fit in the back of my wife’s subaru. problem one was the insurance company telling me they only covered equipment that made basic daily household life possible, and that a piece of equipment intended to be used for access to shopping, the library, and getting around town did not qualify. (my perhaps snide response was to ask if quality of life was not an important part of a persons health and well-being, which apparently it is not.)

anyway, black bear tells me they were able to get an insurance code for this particular chair, that my insurance would pay for it, and we were set to go. i’m just waiting to hear when it is available for me to pick up. i’m very excited, inspired partly by the wheelchair kamikaze, and my strong desire to be out and about on my own to get back to my passion for street photography.

i took an ill-fated train trip last summer from portland to north station in boston with the intension of wheeling around a few blocks of previously unexplored territory with my camera, only to find that even on flat sidewalks, manually wheeling myself was so taxing i was unable to really enjoy most of the trip (tho my sister and i had a wonderful lunch together.) but now that i can return to places like that with a better means of getting myself around, i’m excited to go back, and to other places. my manual chair was a bit of a challenge to get onto the train, so it might become an issue with the power chair to be solved, but i’m sure it can be.

the chair itself has variable speed settings. when i tried it out in the store, i set on the highest setting, and almost knocked over displays and shelves, so it will take some practice with the little joystick. but i think i am up to the challenge.


Author: stephen

stephen harris is a writer, painter and a photographer who lives with his family in maine.

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