My wheelchair is pure freedom!

Jochem. Photo: Johannes Odé

Due to my chronic illness I have a constant lack of energy. Recovery is not likely. That's why I decided to use aids to make my life easier. As for moving myself, I quickly ended up with a wheelchair. But how do you arrange a wheelchair if you can still walk? And what prejudices do you encounter?


One day I became chronically ill. Medicines hardly helped. Physiotherapy and occupational therapy were just drops in the ocean. That's why I decided to look further for aids that could facilitate my life. When I delved into the abundance of possibilities, I quickly came to an excellent solution: a wheelchair.


I have a science background, so I was eager to try this idea. A good opportunity quickly presented itself: a multi-day international conference that I always attend. Since my disabilities, I drag myself through that conference, and afterwards I lie in bed for a week. A high price to pay, but worth it!
This time I went with a borrowed wheelchair. A folding wheelchair that most people think of when they hear the word 'wheelchair'. The kind of wheelchair that I now know is mainly intended as a “transfer wheelchair” in hospitals and the like.
The difference between this congress and previous congresses was enormous. Because moving myself took much less energy, I had energy left for the content of the conference. For the first time since my chronic illness I was able to fully participate again. What a relief! When I got home I was in bed for only three days.

They immersed me in the world of wheelchairs


This tasted like more! Now I wanted a real wheelchair: a lightweight wheelchair with a fixed frame, custom-made. Then moving myself would cost me even less energy than with that bulky, heavy, folding loaner wheelchair.

So I searched extensively on the internet for possibilities and also for tips from the rolling community. I then asked advice from the wheelchair manufacturer TNS Revalidation Service. They immersed me in the world of wheelchairs. I received a lot of information and they asked me all kinds of questions. Also questions about settings, which I could not have imagined that one could choose as well. At the end I received a personal advice. I am unspeakably grateful to this builder!


Completely enthusiastic, I presented my plan to the occupational therapist I saw at the time. To my surprise, he asked with concern if I wasn't afraid that a wheelchair would be disabling. Disabling?! But I had just told him what I could do with a wheelchair! Without a wheelchair I stay at home and with a wheelchair I can go out. So a wheelchair works rehabilitatively for me. The penny dropped at last and my occupational therapist was willing to support my application.

The next step was the Social Support Law. Both my consultant and the aids employee (coincidentally also an occupational therapist) had exactly the same concerns. I explained the difference again. 'But how do you do that now?' the consultant wanted to know. I could be brief about that: not at all! Only then both understood the difference a wheelchair could make for me.

I still find it weird that I had to explain to these three 'professionals' what the benefits of a wheelchair can be. If they don't already understand that from their profession, how are they able to provide people with good advice on the 'best fit' aids?! I am concerned about that…

For me, a wheelchair means pure freedom!


The bureaucratic hurdles are now well behind me. Even after two years I am still very happy with my wheelchair. Thanks to this wheelchair, my world has become a lot bigger, because I can go out again and am therefore less housebound. For me, a wheelchair means pure freedom!

The benefits are also often in the unexpected little things: shopping by wheelchair costs less energy. So I can do something else later that day, after a rest break. In addition, I can sit in my wheelchair much longer without pain than in a regular chair.

This summer, together with others, I am organising another weekend for peers. And in the fall I also want to follow a training for my volunteer work. All made possible by my set of wheels!


This column was published on on 15th July 2021.

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