Mobility is a Human Right?
Mobility is a Human Right. Take a second to think about that statement. How do we define mobility? Is it simply the act of moving from one place to another? The Oxford English Dictionary defines mobility as the ability to move or to be moved freely and easily. I want us to focus on the beginning part of this definition – the ABILITY to move. Then, every individual, whether they are a child, adult, or elderly, that has the ability to move, should be provided the opportunity for mobility.
I had the privilege of attending the Source Kids Expo in Melbourne, Australia this past Friday and Saturday. Source Kids was started by Emma Price, a mom whose eldest child has a disability. Emma created Source Kids as a resource for other parents raising children with a disability. This past weekend I was able to meet families from all around Victoria (and Australia). While some families approached with questions in hand and ideas about what they were looking for, many families came with a blank slate hoping to learn a little more about what resources were available. It was incredible to witness the number of families and therapists that attended this expo.
Throughout these two days, we were able to help several children experience independent mobility with a manual or power wheelchair for the first time. The age of the children that trialed manual or powered wheelchairs ranged from 2.5 years old and up. Some of the parents had wanted to try out a wheelchair while others had never thought it possible for their child to learn and use a wheelchair. I cannot accurately describe the feeling that comes over you when you see a child move around efficiently and independently with a wheelchair for the first time, but their face says it all. It is true happiness. While these amazing moments continued throughout the expo, I couldn’t help but consider all the individuals that have potential for safe, independent mobility but may never have access to this type expo. That is why this week the blog was shifted from a discussion on cushions and is now dedicated to Mobility! We know that not every individual will have the capacity to perform independent mobility even given the best mobility devices on the market, this is why there are so many great options out there for wheelchairs and mobility devices that can be controlled by carers and family. For those individuals that do have the capacity, we have to remember that mobility is a human right. It can be challenging whether you are a carer, parent, family member, friend, or therapist to know if someone is appropriate or the “right age” to trial a mobility device. I want to challenge everyone to stop thinking about if and when someone is appropriate, instead believe that everyone should be given the opportunity for mobility until they prove that they are unable to or would be unsafe.
While we have children on one end, we also have to remember the aged population. These individuals may have had independent mobility their entire lives. Is there an age where we can say it is okay that they no longer should have safe independent mobility? What age is that: 90, 85, 78? Once you hit that age then we should just give you a wheelchair that you can sit in, but are not able to move? Is that independent mobility? Or, have we taken away this human right? There is no age where safe independent mobility should be denied. The key is of course that this mobility is safe. Let us as therapists, families, and as an industry to make sure that we are not denying this potential safe and independent mobility to anyone regardless of their age.
It can be scary to determine if someone is ready for safe, independent mobility, but remember you have resources to help! Never be afraid to ask questions to safely determine if someone has the capacity to trial a mobility device. Giving someone independent mobility who has the ability to move is their human right.