by Sandy Masayko
This is the fourth post in a series of post from Sandy’s visit to Australia
Exploring the farm is part of the fun of living there. But for an 11-year-old boy who was being jostled about in his chair because the standard wheels on his current chair are not designed for uneven terrain, exploration was not so much fun and not really safe. Adapting the power wheelchair so that his young client can drive all around the dirt roads on his family’s farm was the focus of Northcott OT Santheesh Thiruchelvam’s day on Feb. 15. We accompanied Santheesh on a one-hour drive into the country to meet with his young client and the boy’s family.
Santheesh had arranged for a vendor for an Australian wheelchair company, Glide, to bring wheelchairs with wider tires out to the farm for some test drives. As soon as he was in the new chair, the boy took off down a dirt road, turned around and returned with a grin on his face. He really liked the smoother ride on the larger tires. Next challenge was driving into his parent’s van. This test revealed that the tires were too large for van entry. Next trial was with a chair fitted with slightly more narrow tires. The second trial proved that with the narrow tires chair could go up the ramp.
After returning to Northcott, we met with Tara Ozturk who is an Accommodations Services Manager. She oversees the operations of several community living arrangements where folks can live in their own apartments, in shared or independent housing. Support is given as needed from the workers on staff according to the plan developed with the customers. We visited an accessible garden apartment complex where 12 people live in 8 apartments with some common space for barbecues, gardens and meetings. Residents proudly showed us their apartments. Northcott has a network of housing and supported independent living services throughout the area, giving people with disabilities choices in housing.