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Examiner
  • Diane Mack: Celebrating the invention of wheelchairs

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  • Did you know that last Saturday, March 1, was International Wheelchair Day?
    I only wish Kelsey and I had known. We would have celebrated by eating out at our favorite Mexican food restaurant and shopping.
    Mobility is something that most of us take for granted. I walk when I move, without thinking about walking.
    This is not the case for some people with cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis, spina bifida, a stroke, Parkinson's or any person who has been injured through an accident or fall
    Without a wheelchair these individuals must rely on their friends and families for movement, resort to crawling or use a wheelchair.
    Some time ago, one of Kelsey's surgeries resulted in her having a temporary bar being placed between her legs, a trunk brace and AFO's on her legs. Poor Kelsey.
    Plus, I was pregnant, probably 7 months along. I was unable to lift Kelsey or manage her body in any manner. For potty breaks, I had to have someone assist me in turning her sideways, to get her in the bathroom door.
    This morning, I researched the history of wheelchairs on Wikipedia, About.com, Ask.com, and several state disability websites. This is what I was able to collect
    The earliest records of wheeled furniture was an inscription found on a stone slate in China and a child's bed depicted on a Greek vase, both dating back to the 6th century B.C. The first records of wheeled seats being used for transporting the disabled, date to three centuries later in China. The Chinese also used their invented wheelbarrow to move people, as well as heavy objects.
    Years later, images of wheeled chairs can be seen in Chinese art.
    The history of wheelchairs moves on to 1595, when the first known dedicated wheelchair (identified as an invalids' chair), was made for Phillip II of Spain by an unknown inventor.
    In 1655, Stephen Farfler, a paraplegic watchmaker, built a self-propelling chair on a three wheel chassis.
    In 1783, the Bath wheelchair was invented and named for the town of Bath, England, where it was introduced. The Bath chair was a wooden chair with three wheels attached to the bottom, and was clumsy and uncomfortable.
    In 1933, Herbert Everest broke his back in an accident, and he partnered with Harry Jennings, who was a mechanical engineer. The two designed a more sophisticated version of the wheelchair. They invented the first folding wheelchair, out of steel tubes. Their business, Everest and Jennings, is one of the leading wheelchair manufacturers today.
    Whew! On my side of the family, there are a few members who use a wheelchair: Kelsey with CP, Mom with Parkinson's, Dad who is paralyzed since his stroke and a nephew with a broken leg.
    Page 2 of 2 - Are we grateful or what? I can't imagine any of my loved ones' lives without a wheelchair.
    Keep in mind, that wheelchairs are used by people for whom walking is difficult or impossible due to illness, injury or disability
    May I also throw out this – please be aware of these individuals, if you are capable of walking, when you park in handicapped accessible parking.
    Other than that, Kelsey and I don't care if it is 5 degrees outside, with snow, ice and cancellations everywhere. We are headed out for Mexican food and to celebrate, International Wheelchair Day anyway.
    Diane Mack is coordinator of Putting Families First, Jackson County’s Family Week Foundation. Email her at jacksoncountyfamilyweek@yahoo.com or visit www.jacksoncountyfamilyweek.org.
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