Northern Ireland’s provision of wheelchairs and prosthetics is worse than in the rest of the United Kingdon, victims of the Troubles say. Many who were injured in the 30-year conflict are traveling to Westminster to push MPs to implement a special pension for victims of the Troubles who were severely injured.
Some victims of the Troubles are living off of benefits, as they were unable to accumulate occupational pensions because of their injuries.
“The government’s refusal to treat the severely injured as part of the legacy of the conflict is part of the same kind of mindset,” Paul Gallagher, a victim of the Troubles, told Access and Mobility Professional. “The Secretary of State can talk about the government’s responsibilities to ‘provide better outcomes for victims and survivors, the people who suffered most during the Troubles’, but then in effect say that those responsibilities do not extend to men and women who lost eyes, arms and legs during the Troubles. We are treated as an embarrassing inconvenience because we have lived longer than expected.”
The group also plans to visit the spinal rehabilitation unit at the Stoke Mandeville Hospital, where they will meet representatives from the Limbless Association and Limbcare.
The news comes at a time when the UK is working on measures that will improve air travel for disabled persons. New measures may limit the amount of time passengers wait for assistance boarding and disembarking planes.
Ministers are also working with the aviation industry to create priority storage for wheelchairs, so they may be returned to their owners as quickly as possible upon arrival.
Some disabled passengers say their wheelchairs are carelessly tossed into piles of luggage. On occasion, wheelchairs get lost.
Ministers are also considering having seats removed on planes to allow wheelchairs to be used in cabins. Additional weight from the chairs would need to be considered.
“The average weight of a manual wheelchair is 35 to 40 pounds, with lightweight wheelchairs weighing between 27 to 35 pounds,” says AvaCare Medical. “Most standard wheelchairs have a weight capacity of 250 to 300 pounds.”
The removal of seats would make air travel easier for persons who cannot transfer or those who require special seating to travel.
The proposal may also include space on planes for disabled toilets.
Keith Richards, who serves as an advisor to the government on transport for disabled persons, said many disabled travelers rely on “essential equipment like wheelchairs for their own personal mobility.” Richards says wheelchairs are often “treated in the same way as baggage,” but said the proposed measures would be a step in the right direction.
The changes would also help the government prepare for the future, as more disabled persons will likely move to electric wheelchairs in the future, which are harder to store.
In fact, a team at the Imperial College of London has just won a $50,000 research prize to further develop a wheelchair that is self-driving, self-navigating and eye-controlled. This highly complex chair uses sensors and an eye tracking system to allow users to navigate the world using just their eyes.