Children ‘squashed in wrong size wheelchairs’

Many children are being squashed into wheelchairs that are too small for them which has serious consequences for their limb development, a study on wheelchair provision has found.

The study, carried out in partnership with SeatTech, Enable Ireland and the University of Limerick, also found that children are being put at risk of pressure ulcers and chest infections, and it warns that a failure to provide trained people to fix wheelchairs could have lethal consequences.

The study has highlighted a worrying lack of any national policies or guidelines in support of the 40,000 people who use wheelchairs and seating assistive technology in Ireland.

The research was led by UL’s Dr Rosie Gowran who said while there had been an increase in localised, more accessible specialist services and the availability of advanced technology, current wheelchair provision, as with many other countries, lacked uniformity and could not be regarded as sustainable.

She urged the Government to urgently address the current system of wheelchair provision.

“Many, Irish children are currently sitting in wheelchairs that are too small for them; being squashed in a wheelchair could have major consequences on their development, not only impacting their limbs but also leaving them at risk of chest infections and pressures ulcers,” she warned.

Dr Gowran said the research has highlighted that the importance of wheelchair provision is misunderstood and there are four key processes which need to be addressed nationally: access to services, assessment and delivery, tracking, tracing and taking care of equipment and education and research.

“A wheelchair becomes a person’s legs, it becomes part of their skin, and it is a person’s freedom. A wheelchair, if you need one, is essential for survival and it should be seen as a priority,” she added.

The research involved interviews with key stakeholders.

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