When I received my first wheelchair, I was provided with basic instruction on how to move forwards, backwards, turn, navigate ramps and open doors. However, there was so much more to learn. Even after 15 years, I still feel like I haven’t mastered all the skills I need, especially when I see younger wheelchair users effortlessly overcoming kerbs and steps. A wheelchair is not just a mobility device; it becomes an extension of the person using it.

Columnist Ruben Carol

Fortunately, my journey took an incredible turn when I had the privilege of meeting Pete Donnelly. Pete is the driving force behind The Wheelchair Skills College, an empowering initiative focused on building confidence and independence. Through their comprehensive training programmes, individuals are equipped with the skills to conquer obstacles they once believed impossible. From mastering pushing techniques and carrying a cup of coffee to confidently crossing uneven surfaces and descending stairs, these invaluable skills make a genuine difference in our daily lives, enabling us to reach our desired destinations safely.

Pete’s YouTube channel boasts nearly 30 instructional videos but his expertise extends far beyond with The Wheelchair Skills College. Recognising the significance of early intervention, Pete also teaches these essential skills in schools. However, it’s important to remember that learning wheelchair skills is not limited to individuals in schools. 

Regardless of age, having these skills should be a priority for anyone who acquires an impairment later in life. Personally, I discovered that wheelchair skills sessions not only enhanced my confidence and independence but also unlocked new possibilities in my life. I have to ask why this training isn’t given when you are issued with your first wheelchair by the NHS. I feel it’s essential for safety, comfort and ease.

The path towards mastering wheelchair skills is ongoing, but it is a journey well worth embarking on. By investing in our abilities and learning these fundamental skills, we embrace a life of greater independence and freedom. Furthermore, as we strive for a society that removes barriers individuals face, advocating for wheelchair skills training becomes essential. We should be empowering individuals to live their lives to the fullest while breaking down these barriers.

Remember, with the right skills, we have the power to start to unlock a world of independence and limitless possibilities. By doing so, we create a future where disabled individuals can thrive and contribute fully to our communities.