Lisburn woman Esther
Hewitt. Esther received a new electric
wheelchair but is not supposed to go
outside in it - even into her garden -
until she receives training on how to
operate the wheelchair safety.
A DISABLED woman is to write to the Human
Rights Commission asking it to investigate why she has been
trapped in her Lisburn home for months while waiting for the go
ahead to use her new wheelchair outside.
Esther Hewitt (61) has been told it will be
March 2009 before an assessment can be made on her electric
wheelchair so she can use it outside.
The problem arose last September when
Esther's new electric wheelchair was ordered through the Belfast
Health and Social Care Trust. She waited many months before it
was delivered to her in February.
But while she was told she could use it
inside she would not be allowed to use it outside until she had
a two hour medical assessment and training in its safe use.
Esther said that as a result she has been unable to go shopping
or visit friends. She fears that should she attempt to take the
wheelchair outside it could be taken from her.
"I do not think that anyone training me would
be as competent in an electric wheelchair as I am after 20
years," she said.
Esther, who lives alone, has spent most of
her life in a wheelchair. At the age of three she lost the use
of both her arms and legs after getting polio.
"I understand that my life is affected
because I am in a wheelchair and there are limits in what
I can do," she said. "I accept that, but this
limits me further and I have not been able to get out from my
garden for many many months."
She said she is now having to do her shopping
online and could not even visit family and friends at Christmas.
"To go outside is a basic human need and I am
being deprived of that. Even convicted criminals get fresh air
so why not me? It is not just a psychological need but a health
"I have a great network of friends and family
but this is a very solitary experience."
Esther's brother wrote to the health minister
but has still not got what he regards as a satisfactory answer.
He was told that additional funding has been made available to
improve wheelchair services.
"I just feel exhausted and indignant," Esther
said. This has just really upset me, but if there is a waiting
list for this type of service then I am not the only person in
A spokesperson for Disability Action said it
was 'ridiculous' that somebody should have to wait so long for a
piece of equipment that was vital to them.
They said that it went against everything the
government has said and the ultimate responsibility as it lies
with the Department of Health and the minister should be looking
into the matter.