Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Anita's Self-Advocacy

Anita left her residence in her new high-tech motorized wheelchair. She traveled to a nearby intersection. Pressed the “Push-to-walk” button and waited on the light to turn green. It did and she started to cross the street. As she was crossing, an oncoming vehicle negotiated a left-hand turn that intersected her path striking her wheelchair. The good news is that she was not physically injured!

Now the bad news. Her new $22000 wheelchair was totaled. No witnesses came forward so it was difficult if not impossible to ascertain who was at fault. The police did not cite either party. Barring a protracted lawsuit the matter was closed. Anita’s source of mobility and independence was now a heap of broken useless parts for which no one wanted to take responsibility.

Anita could have withdrawn to her residence. Depression could have set in. This situation could have simply slipped through the cracks. Out of sight, out of mind.

But she took it on herself to contact the local newspaper, “The Orange County Register”. The deaths of 3 people using wheelchairs in the past 2½ months prompted the paper to publish an article highlighting the dangers wheelchair users confront. The article appeared in the February 12 issue of the paper.

Since the article’s publication; her wheelchair has been replaced, awareness to this issue by the community in general has been heightened, and attention to this matter within the Multiple Sclerosis community has been feverish and shows no sign of ebbing. The first step in solving a problem is recognizing that a problem exists.

So thank you Anita! By demonstrating powerful self-advocacy not only have you won a personal victory; you’ve brought attention to the issues of:
1. Personal safety
2. Protecting ourselves from the unexpected loss of our mobility aids