Tom Shakespeare

Charles Dickens’ character Wemmick was always concerned with what he called “portable property”, and this month so am I. Do you use a bag or a briefcase to carry your wallet, keys, phone, papers or do you put it all in your pockets? Since becoming a wheelchair user, I have had a problem. Some folks have a bag that straps underneath their wheelchair, but my arms are too short to reach. If I put a bag on the back of my chair, it might get tangled with my wheels, or stolen.

Balance can be tricky. Once I hung an overnight bag off the bag of my chair, only to tip over backwards when I wheeled up a slope. I ended up trapped upside down in my wheelchair, unable to move, like a beetle on its back.

Until recently, I thought I had a found a solution, which was to hang the bag at the front, off my seat-belt. But last month I took a few long bus rides with a laptop in my briefcase. The heavy bag was resting on my feet for an hour or more at a time, and the result was that I ended up with a small pressure sore on the top of one foot.

A pressure sore happens when sustained pressure leads to a wound, which can then become infected. Paralysed or elderly people are vulnerable if they spend a long time sitting or lying in one position. The solution is often total immobility while the wound heals. Healing takes much longer if you have bad circulation. So you can see why getting a pressure sore is such a disaster.

I still carry my bag at the front, but much more carefully, taking it off whenever I can. Next problem: however am I going to cope with my supermarket shopping?