by: Nerissa Cannon
One of the original Freedom Chair Trailblazers, Nerissa, now works full time with GRIT! Her own journey with chronic illness has made her very passionate about helping other people get the most out of life in spite of a disabling condition. In her new series, IT'S A GRIT LIFE, she shares how the GRIT Freedom Chair helps her engage in her favorite activities and live a life of adventure.
The GRIT Freedom Chair is synonymous with off road mobility, hence its catchphrase "Move Beyond the Pavement." However, the Freedom Chair is also the most versatile, all-terrain wheelchair on the market, so what exactly are it's capabilities on pavement?
While cities are SUPPOSED to have curb cuts for easement, many places have a long way to go to align themselves with basic accessibility standards. Inaccessible spots shouldn't keep you from being able to enjoy your day out, though. One thing that I truly love about the Freedom Chair is that I can just ride straight off of a curb. I can wheelie in my standard wheelchair, yes, but there's always this margin for error. I feel much safer, and my movement is much more fluid when I use the Freedom Chair to tackle curbs.
Riding up curbs takes practice to get the timing and balance right, but it is absolutely doable. Something I always had a hard time with in my ultralight chair was hopping a curb where there was natural terrain on the other side. It has a tendency to slow down your momentum, and then you don't have the momentum that carries you through. With the GRIT Freedom Chair, I don't have to worry about that. It just powers through any type of soft terrain that might be on the other side of the curb.
One thing you'll encounter with pavement is the side-slope, or camber. That is an angle in the sidewalk for drainage. A lot of people, when they first start using a wheelchair, discover this. If you're ambulatory you don't really notice that the sidewalks slope. However, the second you get into a wheeled device gravity wants to work, and it starts to pull you a little. The Freedom Chair makes it easy to compensate for side-slopes. I typically hold one lever and just pump extra on the opposite side. I do like to ride the center crown, but that's not always possible, or safe.
Pavement is not always smooth and maintained. There are a lot of places that have really broken up pavement. The Freedom Chair is great about going over broken up pavement because it's great about going through rocky terrain. There's not much difference!
I love to take my dog to the playground. It's good for confidence building, and it's just a different outing for him. It keeps things interesting, but a lot of playgrounds are challenging to get around because of the turf that they choose to lay. The Freedom Chair helps me get around even on really soft mulch. Sometimes landscape architects try to help out, but they don't really understand accessibility needs. At my local park, there's this ramp that goes down into the playground, but there's still this huge curb drop that goes down into the mulch. Ifyou are unable to wheelie, typically your casters will get stuck in the mulch when you go down that ramp. Well, with the Freedom Chair it's just smooth sailing.