A new lightweight wheelchair from Variety gives Erin a brighter, more confident future

Like many teenagers, 16-year-old Erin from Hampshire loves pop music and getting out and about. However, she found her electric NHS wheelchair too cumbersome and difficult to manoeuvre, and her various developmental, physical and autoimmune disorders meant her muscles fatigued easily whenever she tried to use it. Struggling so obviously and visibly with her chair made her feel self-conscious in public, especially when she had to get on and off buses with it, and this really knocked her self-confidence. Eventually, she simply felt too embarrassed to go out in it. Thankfully, Variety was able to step in and provide Erin with a new lightweight manual wheelchair with a power option. Here, Erin's mum Claire describes how much of a lifeline Variety's help has been.

Erin with her new wheelchair from Variety

"We were struggling to get Erin out of the house – she just refused. A friend who has three children with disabilities mentioned Variety, and we decided to apply for support. We’re so glad we did!

Since receiving her new wheelchair, Erin’s level of independence has improved enormously, and with it her confidence and self-esteem. She no longer feels like she stands out.

Erin started college last week, and had to travel to the college on a bus, as the home-to-college transport service she was using has been hampered by driver shortages. With a bit of help, she was able to use the bus more-or-less independently.

During the first COVID-19 lockdown, Erin was told to shield for 12 weeks as her conditions made her more vulnerable than most. Her social confidence was low to begin with, but this spell of enforced isolation knocked it back even further. Having a ‘whizzy’ new wheelchair from Variety has helped to rebuild her self-esteem and confidence around socialising with others enormously.

Not being able to get Erin’s original, bulkier wheelchair in and out of the car was also a huge obstacle for the family, and meant that family outings were difficult. The new wheelchair from Variety is so light that now any member of the family can simply pick it up and lift it in and out of the car. The other day, Erin was able to go shopping with her 21-year-old big sister, Lauren, quite comfortably. The new wheelchair copes better with uneven terrain too, so Erin is now also able to go and visit her grandmother, 'Nana', at her home in Chichester, where the garden isn't very level.

Inspired by how much Variety has helped her granddaughter, Nana has recently been hosting coffee mornings in order to raise money for Variety – another lovely outcome!

Until you’re living with a child who has a disability, there’s so much you take for granted. As a parent, you want to make your child’s life as normal as possible. However, sometimes it’s not the child's disability that’s preventing you from doing this, but rather the inaccessibility of the environment. And while there’s so much that can be done to give a disabled child more independence, it does take money, so Variety's grant has been so appreciated.

Erin is studying health and social care at college. She wants to be a play specialist in a hospital setting, which involves helping children deal with their anxiety around the painful procedures they're facing by using play. This is a cause that’s very close to Erin's heart, given that she’s been in and out of hospital with many procedures herself. She really understands the children’s anxiety and has enormous compassion for them, so this would be her dream job.

The new wheelchair is enabling Erin to participate more fully in the world around her and achieve her ambitions. Watch this space!"

Erin with her new wheelchair from Variety