Visit to the Wheatbelt Region May 2015

Portraite image of OT Sophie WittwerMy name is Sophie and I am one of the Occupational Therapists in the Assistive Equipment team. As a part of our service we visit regional country areas of Western Australia to provide information and advice on assistive equipment in areas of mobility, self-care and recreation. This part of our service is important to ensure that people who live in the country have access to view and trial equipment and speak to an Occupational Therapist about their specific needs.

I was excited to go on my first trip to the Wheatbelt for 2015 and visit towns that had shown keen interest in accessing our services. Our first stop was to Merredin where we met with a teacher and Education Assistant. They contacted me prior to the trip as they were keen to see what equipment is available to support her children with disabilities in the classroom. We discussed and viewed a range of meal preparation equipment that may assist students in home economics and some communication apps for the iPad for use within the classroom.

The next day was a very cold morning when we set off to Tammin to set up the caravan for the day. Tammin is a small town and we were lucky enough to meet some friendly people over the course of the day. The seniors meet weekly for morning tea at the local op shop and after this several people came to visit us. We had some good discussions and enquiries about personal alarm systems and kitchen aids and visitors took details of where to source these products.

On Wednesday we set up at the Delmoore Centre in Moora where the seniors meet weekly. This was a busy day and we had a whole range of enquiries with requests for further information on vehicle transfer aids, scooters and personal alarm systems. It was also nice to meet some staff from the hospital that came to see what equipment was new. During the seniors morning tea I had the opportunity to speak to the group about our services and pass around some smaller kitchen aids for discussion. Overall it was a great day and I hope to return to Moora in the near future.

We were due to be in Quairading on Thursday morning for a Scooter Workshop however unfortunately we were delayed due to some technical issues with the caravan. The ladies (Tarnya, Robyn, Julie) at the Community Resource Centre (CRC) were very accommodating and changed the schedule of the day so that I could present a later which was much appreciated. Quairading has many mobility scooter users so the Scooter Workshop was a fantastic event that had a great turn out of about twenty people. It involved speakers from Roadwise and the local police to talk about scooter safety as well as a supplier who discussed repairs/servicing of scooters.

Arthur West and OT Sophie Whittwer standing together beside his powered wheelchair and holding onto a Airgo Fusion Side-Folding Rollator I talked to the group about the skills required to drive a scooter and the different types of scooters for those people who were considering purchasing one. After the presentations the group joined in a lunch and then had an opportunity to view and trial other equipment in the caravan. I met a gentleman Arthur who showed me some of his own equipment that has helped him over the years. This included a customised hand splint which helped him to hold a pen for writing and his power wheelchair.

He was particularly interested in the Airgo Fusion Side-Folding Rollator and Transport Chair which is a four wheeled walker which can be converted to a transport chair as well. He was interested to use this as an alternative to his power wheelchair for shorter distances, and it could be easily folded for transport in the car.

People undertaking scooter trial and obstacle course in the carpark outside the Community Resource Centre in Quairading After lunch the local police set up an obstacle course in the carpark where people were welcome to attempt to try scooters and manoeuvre through the course to challenge their skills. It was great to see everyone have a go.

On Friday we set up the caravan in Brookton which was a welcoming town in which Amy from the local CRC went to great effort to promote that we were visiting. We met lots of lovely people on this day and had some valuable discussions about a whole range of equipment.

On a very misty morning we had our final stop at the Pingelly Autumn Markets which was a nice way to finish the trip. These markets were well supported by the local community and involved a range of food stalls, second hand goods and live music. This event was a great way for us to promote our services in the area and will hopefully lead to more discussions for trips in the future.

I thoroughly enjoyed our week long trip to the Wheatbelt region in which I met and talked to many people about how assistive equipment and acquire a greater understanding about the challenges they face in accessing some services and equipment in the region. I would like to say a very big thank you to all the staff at the CRC’s, HACC Centres and hospitals that made this trip such a successful and enjoyable one. I look forward to visiting this beautiful region again in the near future.

* Please note links to equipment discussed in this article will take you to the ILCA National Equipment Database where you will find  further information about the equipment including suppliers in your area. As people have varying needs please do not hesitate to contact us if you wish to discuss with an Occupational Therapist equipment suitable to your particular needs.