Tom Shakespeare

I changed jobs last month, and went through all the usual rituals. I had my leaving party, I handed in my work mobile phone, I cleaned the walls… What do you mean, you don’t scrub down your office when you change employment? Ah, but then you’re probably not a wheelchair user.

Let me explain. First, some wheelchair users push their push rims, and some push their tires, to get along. I do a bit of both. Which means that my hands come in regular contact with the dirt that the wheels pick up off the ground. Second, I often whizz around the corridors of my eight-storey building with a coffee cup or a pile of papers in one hand. That means one-sided pushing and an erratic course around the offices. It’s often easier to put out a hand to grab the door frame and pull myself around corners. I’ve been known to scoot along the walls hand over hand.

Hence the dirt marks. I’m not sure whether everyone else noticed, but you could follow my route around our corner of the building by the trail of grubby handprints, one meter from the ground. And please don’t look at the sleeves of my shirts and coats too closely. All that pushing means constant rubbing against those dirty tires.

I had to get my car valeted too. Years of hauling a wheelchair in and out takes its toll, particularly during winter. Not only the mud on the upholstery, but also the scratches which result when titanium wheelchair hits steel doorframe. The car is in pretty good condition, except for the rear passenger door which has been battered by approximately 1500 wheelchair transfers per year.

Anyway, I’ve now made a clean break and it’s time for a fresh start. But I’m sure it won’t take me long to make my mark in a new workplace, And car. And clothes