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For many people with spinal cord injuries learning good wheelchair skills is the key to independence and a good quality of life. Whilst physiotherapists in the Spinal Injury Centres can teach the basic skills needed for life in a wheelchair it is often only by learning from experienced wheelchair users, that these skills can be truly mastered.

In 2001 the charity Back Up recognised this and set up a wheelchair skills training initiative which they took into Spinal Centres. Working alongside the hospital staff, they helped many newly injured people learn techniques and gain confidence in using a wheelchair. Back Up have now expanded their training with a new “Join the Dots” community based wheelchair skills programme, which we are delighted to be sponsoring.

The first five sessions in Aylesbury, Sheffield, Middlesbrough and Pinderfields have been a great success. Back Up Outreach and Support Manager Pete Donnelly said: “It is essential for people to have the confidence and skills to get around their communities in their wheelchair when they leave hospital. That’s why we are building on our wheelchair skills training sessions and now taking the training into local towns. It’s great to have the support of Irwin Mitchell for this vital new service and fantastic that we have volunteers from their offices to join the sessions and experience them first hand!”

In Sheffield, two ex-patients from the Spinal Centre were able to come on the course, because of the additional help available from the Irwin Mitchell volunteers. More information can be found at: www.backuptrust.org.uk

At the end of the day one of the course attendees thanked Back Up by writing:

“Just a line to say how much I gained from attending the course last week in Sheffield, I ‘got’ the back wheel balance very quickly and am practicing at home! I think it will come in really useful for France (dropped kerbs being an unpredictable quantity!). Please thank Andy and his volunteers for their help, it was really enjoyable meeting them all.”