Labour conference: Student forced to crowdfund pain-free wheelchair

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A disabled student has told Labour’s annual party conference that she has been forced to resort to crowdfunding to obtain a wheelchair that is suitable for her needs, because of “chronic” government under-funding.

Rebecca Boot (pictured) told the party’s annual conference in Brighton that because she had a cheap powerchair that was not suitable for her impairment, it caused her pain and regular dislocations of her joints.

She said her powerchair cost about £2,500 and was one of the cheapest available, but because it has “no suspension and poor shock absorbancy” she spends much of her time in bed “recovering from the pain” it causes.

The chair she needs costs four times as much, but she does not believe she will be able to secure it through the “under-funded and over-stretched” NHS wheelchair service.

She told the conference: “Not having the right chair costs me sleep, it costs me study time, and it costs me time with my family and my friends, while I lie in bed recovering from the pain that my wheelchair has caused.

“The Tories’ chronic under-funding of NHS wheelchair services is costing me my freedom and it’s costing the local authority in personal care funding.”

She added: “Having the wrong wheelchair means I am living a life of social exclusion and isolation and unfulfilled potential.”

Boot said she had been forced to make the decision to crowdfund the money for a new powerchair, which she believed was “not acceptable”.

And she said this was “just one example” of how the Conservative government had failed disabled people, as reported last month by the UN committee on the rights of persons with disabilities.

She told Disability News Service afterwards that she was “getting desperate for a wheelchair that doesn’t cause me too much pain”.

She said she was unable to spend more than a few hours at a time in her wheelchair because she starts to develop muscle cramps.

Boot, who is just beginning her second year at Aston University, said: “It doesn’t cause problems in terms of going to lectures because they are a maximum of two hours but it means I have to go back to my room and lie down afterwards.

“It means I am missing out on the social stuff surrounding university life.”

She told the conference: “Wheelchairs are vehicles of freedom. My wheelchair enables me to be here with you today, to go to university and to socialise with my friends.

“My wheelchair means I can choose what I do with my life and when. But I, like many others, have the wrong wheelchair.”

She added: “A safe wheelchair that works properly should be a right, not a privilege.”