A wheelchair user has spoken of the “life-changing” kindness of strangers, after a successful crowdfunding effort to raise money for a new chair.
Robert West, a 35-year-old teaching assistant from Huntingdonshire near Cambridge, received funding for part of the cost of his £11,000 chair, but still needed to contribute nearly £3,000.
With no way of paying the money, he took what he described as the “embarrassing” decision to launch a crowdfunding campaign – and within a day had raised the funds he needed.
Well this is embarrassingI am currently trying to fund a contribution towards a new wheelchair, which would enable me to stay in employmentI am struggling to raise the £2743 needed
If you or anyone you know could spare a few pounds, I’d be very gratefulhttps://t.co/dXAOeIPcYv
— HÚ! (@Robertpwest) January 24, 2022
Mr West, who has cerebral palsy, told the PA news agency: “I am very grateful, the idea that complete strangers would help someone they hardly know is stunning.
“It’s an amazing display of humanity.
“I was happy with people just sharing my link. But for people to part with their hard-earned money? Incredible.
“I never imagined it would be this successful this quick, it’s staggering.”
Mr West’s old wheelchair is seven years old.
If anyone is curious how much a reasonably standard electric wheelchair costs, here you go. There’s nothing on this that won’t enable me to be as independent as possible.
My sisters brand new car cost less than this, that comes with Bluetooth and a radio. pic.twitter.com/MiDCyzLCJV
— HÚ! (@Robertpwest) January 25, 2022
He said that when he asked for help from his local wheelchair services last year he was told they “no longer support clients beyond their own front door”, so he was not eligible for help.
Through the Government’s Access To Work scheme he received about £8,000 towards the new chair – which costs £11,403.75 – but had to source the rest of the money himself.
Although delighted to now have the funding in place, Mr West was disappointed to have to ask for help.
“I’m not someone who feels sorry for themselves regarding their disability,” he said.
“But I do resent being taxed for leaving my front door.
“I want to go to work, I’m good at my job, but there’s a tax for me to ‘walk’ to work.
“How’s that right?”
Among the features on the wheelchair are a seat riser, which enables him to reach things he would otherwise need help with, and a reclining back rest, which allows him to stay in the chair for longer periods without becoming uncomfortable.
As well as being essential for work, the chair allows him to go shopping, walk his border terrier Hamish and socialise without needing assistance.
“It is life-changing, I’m not even being dramatic,” he said.
“The fact the money is right there, I can pay my contribution as soon as the chair is ordered, I don’t have to put any stress on my family – it means a lot.”
Mr West hopes to have his chair ordered within a few days, and in his possession within a couple of months.