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Help! Wheeling Slopes …

Stiletto Wheels Question Mark

Right to Benefits?

I had tickets to see four events at this year’s London Jazz Festival.  Sadly, due to a diabolical cold, I attended only one: the Arild Andersen Quintet at the Queen Elizabeth Hall (QEH) … and rather fab it was too.

I love hearing jazz live and don’t do it enough since being in the wheelchair because many places are just not that accessible.  The Jazz Fest happily spreads artists across town so, for two weeks of every year at least, there is usually something good on every night – a treat.

The QEH is a great venue for jazz as it has some great wheelchair spaces right at the front which give both close-up views and brilliant sound.  Entrance to this area is via the artists entrance around the side of the stage and up a shallow ramp.

Eek!  My nemesis: a sloping ramp.

Going up the ramp: no problem.  Coming back down it: I blush to think of my exit.  The shame.

Honestly, it is a ramp of tiny gradient, maybe 3 metres long.  I have been up and down it in my manual wheelchair dozens of times with no problem and, yet …

Put me in my huge power wheelchair, the Balder, and I freeze the entire way down it.

It’s just ludicrous.  The Balder is able to eat these slopes up with no problem.  It’s all about me – my broken leg experience, my nervousness, my inexperience, my spatial awareness deficits … yada, yada, yada.  Yawn.

Or it would be ‘Yawn’ if it were not for my consequent problem which is: going front-facing, down a low gradient but over-a-metre-long slope, I lose control.  This is pathetic, annoying and inhibits me going to places … and I hate that!  And, it’s potentially dangerous for me and anyone nearby.

Panic grabs me and I just seem utterly incapable of steady but slow speed.  My hand knows only go-hell-for-leather – not advisable with a wall in front of you – or stop and inch down with my rear wheels fishtailing uncomfortably as I shriek or whimper depending on my mood that day.

I tried to get D to stand in front and fill the space to stop me panicking.  “Are you kidding,” he said.  “You’re out of control.  You’ll run me over.”

Fair point.  But what to do?  How do I get better at this other than forcing myself to do it and feeling bad when it’s all such a shambles?  I need to build my confidence up but how?

Has anyone got any ideas that might help?  And just telling me to ‘get a grip’ is not useful (D has tried that one to its’ death).

I’m so bored with being such rubbish at slopes but I can’t be the only person struggling with this, can I?  Help.

8 Responses to “Help! Wheeling Slopes …”

  1. Emily @ Words I Wheel By

    Going down steep slopes makes me similarly nervous but I usually grasp the arm-rest tightly and take deep breaths. I find mid-speed to be the best, light pressure on the joystick.

  2. Elis

    When you say you go hell for leather, do you mean that you push the joystick down as hard as possible? I find the only way I can maintain a constant speed in my chair is to push the joystick as far as it goes and to control the speed by changing the speed setting instead. That way it’s not even possible to go too fast. It probably sounds a bit obvious but if you take away the possibility of being able to just get out as fast as you can, then you just have to go at a safe speed. It sounds like your problem is mostly just being utterly terrified though. Maybe a wheelchair skills course might help? Putting seatbelt on so there is no chance of falling out? Maybe if you can prove you are going at a slow and steady speed D might be willing to stand in front so you feel safe?

    • Elle, StilettoWheels & PlusBlack

      Yes, my panic makes me heavy on the controls or I stop completely and my back wheels fishtail … more panic. I may have found some baby slopes to practice on so will try that with D and another friend – one each side. That will at least help the spatial problem and may help control my fear.
      Practice does make perfect so I shall continue wheeling on and hope to improve. Thank you so much for taking the time to advise. I really do appreciate it 😀

  3. Ameena

    With the Balder use the tilt in space function to tilt the chair back a little bit so that when you go down the slope you will effectively be level, but not so far back that you can’t see. Then put the controller into a low speed, high sensitivity setting. Then go down the slope. Works for me. If you don’t have a good “going down slopes” setting then get in touch with Balder to come out an programme one in for you specially.
    Good luck, A

    • Elle, StilettoWheels & PlusBlack

      Many thanks for the advice and I do try all that you suggest.

      My biggest problem is ‘freezing’ as I go down and stopping which is when the back wheels, on a downward facing slope, skew and fuel my panic to a higher degree. I then lurch into an ungainly stop/start technique where my panic roils around my body making me feel like I have no control at all.

      If I am able to do the same slopes over and over – as at home – I get used to it & have no problem but in the outside world it’s always new obstacles or with a lengthy time between visits. I am starting to dread it so much that it’s putting me off going out. It’s just hard forcing myself to do things that I hate to do and certainly detracts from my enjoyment of any event to the point where I am seriously asking myself if I will enjoy the even more than the terror and NOT going if I think not!

      As if life weren’t limited enough, I’m now making it tougher on myself! Guess I shall just have to pull my big girl panties up and grit my teeth …

      Thanks again for the encouragement. 😀

      • Ameena

        The other option, at the QEH, is to book the wheelchair spaces that are in the middle aisle instead of the front row. Then you have to use the nasty stair lift, but don’t have to contend with the ramp!

      • Elle, StilettoWheels & PlusBlack

        You are right but I like the seats at the front and I just cannot let this beat me. The QEH slope is a tiny gradient – even I am able to see that. i just refuse to limit myself to this degree so I shall persevere. Wish me luck and thanks for being so understanding. 😀

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