Community freelancer Sharon Davies tells her story of finding more freedom with the TriRide; an e-bike style power add-on for her wheelchair.
Almost 5 years ago, my life as a full-time wheelchair user changed for the better. I’d just had my bi-annual wheelchair assessment with my occupational therapist. She has known and worked with me for many years. She is kind and understanding, and we have become firm friends. Our relationship is important, and has been especially so over the last couple of years as I’ve noticed my strength waning. As this impacts my independence and mobility, she initially suggested I move from a manual wheelchair to an electric one. But this is something I am dead against; for now, anyway. In my mind, electric wheelchairs are big, clumsy and unable to be transported in and out of vehicle boots. I pride myself on being as independent as possible, and an electric wheelchair isn’t going to do this for me.
At the time of this assessment, I had just attended an annual Show Your Ability Expo in Greenlane. This showcase event is for disabled people, their families and health professionals to view a range of available equipment. I came across a Dunedin based company who had just started to import a small, easy to use, motorbike-style power add-on for wheelchairs. With a starting weight of only 8.4kg and up to 50km power from a single charge, the salesman told me the TriRide was the ultimate power assist for my adventures.
I was sold! I fell in love with the TriRide immediately; the only barrier was convincing my occupational therapist to get the Ministry of Health to fund it, noting it was half the cost of the electric wheelchair we had previously discussed. Thankfully, after many conversations and an arduous application process, funding was approved. The whole process took several months, but finally my TriRide arrived at my house, all the way from Italy. I was very excited, and named her The Shazam!
I’d googled ‘Shazam’ and learnt that it indicates an instantaneous transformation or appearance. I decided this name fitted well. It did take me a couple of months to learn how to attach and detach the oversize front-drive wheel from my wheelchair; but I was determined, and I made it work. Then, it only took a few weeks of being able to wheel alongside friends through parks or gravel tracks, or just up the road from my home to catch the train, that I knew she had transformed my life. She has been to the beach, several reserves, and local boardwalks, over grass, gravel, and many dirt tracks and footpaths around West Auckland. I am a strong advocate for inclusion for all, so being able to get out and about alongside several friends who cycle has given me the biggest thrill.
The Shazam has also supported me through several COVID-19 lockdowns. I live on my own and have a pretty busy social life, so being forced to stay home has and continues to do my head in. But I know it is for the best, so I continue to play my part. That’s why I’m thankful for The Shazam at this time: I can attach her to the front of my wheelchair and get out every couple of days for fresh air with either of my two bubble buddies, both of whom ride bikes.
On 3 December, it will be 5 years since The Shazam entered my life. Incidentally, this anniversary falls on International Day of People with Disabilities! This feels very interconnected for me because The Shazam has become an integral part of my life. She provides me with more freedom so I can stay connected with friends, continue to take an active role in my community, and continue with my variety of volunteer work, including being an active Justice of the Peace on several service desks in West Auckland.
I wouldn’t be without her!