A Thornton youngster has been given a life-changing gift to mark a milestone change to the law which will help disabled children.
Christopher Anderson, 12, from Thornton, was presented with a hi-tech wheelchair by the Minister of State for Transport Baroness Susan Kramer, after it was announced a legal amendment will give disabled youngsters access to the most advanced powered wheelchairs.
Newlife Foundation for Disabled Children – the largest charity funder of specialist equipment for children with disabilities and terminal illness – has been campaigning at ministerial level for a change to wheelchair weight restrictions for over three years.
The charity is celebrating the amendment by providing the £7,884 wheelchair for Christopher, who has Spina Bifida and Hydrocephalus and is unable to walk more than a few steps.
His mum Christine Anderson said: “With the right equipment he will be able to do so much more for himself.
“The wrong equipment or no equipment leaves him waiting for people to do things for him.
“This is really frustrating for us when we work hard to show him how able he is.
“He doesn’t want to be pushed about but hasn’t the strength to negotiate gradients, kerbs and doorways, particularly in busy places.
“He doesn’t get out as much as he’d like to.”
Christopher does not meet local statutory services criteria for a powered wheelchair, so the family turned to Newlife Foundation for help.
Until the Department for Transport announcement, Newlife would have been unable to – legally – give this powered wheelchair to Christopher because the equipment weighs around 165kg, 15kg over the previous maximum weight limit.
Wheelchairs over 150kg in weight have required a driving licence to operate them, effectively banning under-17s.
But now the weight limit has been increased to 200kg, which will potentially help 70,000 children with disabilities.
Newlife Foundation CEO Sheila Brown said: “We are delighted this seemingly small change could potentially make a huge impact on the quality of the lives of so many wheelchair-using children in the UK – not least those young people with complex needs for whom the opportunity to use a specialist ‘sit to stand’ wheelchair can actually help lengthen their lives.”
For more details go to www.newlifecharity.co.uk.