‘Poorly fitting wheelchairs put disabled at risk’

Disabled people are at risk of further significant health problems due to badly fitting wheelchairs and a lack of repair facilities, a conference at the University of Limerick heard yesterday.

Occupational therapist Dr Rosie Gowran said: “There are more than 40,000 people who use wheelchairs and seating assistive technologies in Ireland but they are being failed by a worrying lack of uniformity when accessing services, receiving their wheelchair, repair and maintenance.”

A study on wheelchair provision by the University of Limerick, highlighted issues around waiting times for assessment and provision.

“Posture, movement and mobility are essential for every human being to function and gain access to the world,” said Dr Gowran, who organised the first European conference on wheelchair provision.

Wheelchair user, Arun Asan said as a photographer he needs to be able to move about and access the world, to be with friends, family and contribute as an equal member of society.

Dr Marina Lupani , a parent, told the conference that we need to stop seeing a wheelchair as just a piece equipment and need to start to acknowledge that this is not a luxury item.

“This is something our children cannot do without. We would never take insulin away from a diabetic; we would never take an inhaler from an asthmatic,” she said.

“Does society not realise that a poorly fitted wheelchair has serious health implications leading to a shorter life expectancy for our children?”

A new Postgraduate Certificate in Posture, Seating and Wheelchair Mobility has been launched at the University of Limerick in partnership with SeatTech Enable Ireland. The programme is the first of its kind in Ireland.

Dr Gowran said the certificate was an important step in the pursuit of effective wheelchair services.


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