Today the Wheelchair Skills Course at Royal Talbot was officially opened by Minister for Disability, Ageing and Carers, the Hon Luke Donnellan, to show the importance of building wheelchair skills in a controlled environment that helps patients prepare for situations they'll face once back in the community.
Royal Talbot treats almost 100 patients a year suffering from severe spinal cord injuries, and many become wheelchair users as a result.
The wheelchair course was custom designed to create a space where new wheelchair users can negotiate a range of obstacles and surfaces.
"This includes navigating slopes, steps, uneven paths, gates and cobblestones," says Senior Physiotherapist, Mark McDonald, whose vision started the course.
"This wheelchair course will provide those skills to get patients back out into the community after serious injuries," says the Hon Luke Donnellan, Minister for Disability, Ageing and Carers.
The course is part of a $100,000 redevelopment at Royal Talbot, and has received generous support from a range of organisations.
"Funding from the Transport Accident Commission, Major Road Projects Authority and Kew Golf Club have contributed to the construction of the course along with a new pathway, an outdoor area for patients and their families, and an upgrade to the adjacent gardens," says Sue Shilbury.
As part of the event, our patients demonstrated different ways to use the course and the skills they receive from completing obstacles. Even the Minister had a go in the wheelchair completing some of the course, and he acknowledged the difficulty of building wheelchair skills.
While wheelchair skill training has always been part of our rehabilitation program, the new course brings together existing training methods and adds obstacles to ensure our patients are well prepared for life outside of the rehabilitation setting.
Make sure to tune in tonight at 6pm to see our new spinal patient, Dan, hit the course in his new wheelchair and tell his story to Channel 9 Melbourne.