Heels for Wheels: An interview with our patron Sophie Morgan

Our patron and founder of Heels for Wheels, Sophie Morgan

Back Up has recently launched an exciting new campaign – Heels for Wheels! We are thrilled to be working with celebrities from the worlds of fashion, entertainment, and sport to host an online auction to raise funds for our vital services. We will be auctioning off shoes owned by these famous faces – from heels that have graced red carpets to legendary football boots.

The original idea behind this campaign was from our patron, broadcaster and disability advocate Sophie Morgan. We had a chat with her to learn more about the ideas behind this campaign, and how Back Up transformed her life after spinal cord injury.

Tell us a bit about yourself – who you are, what you do, maybe a fun fact!

I’m Sophie Morgan. I live and work in London as an inclusion consultant, advocate, and a presenter. A fun fact is that I have a full back tattoo!

How did you sustain your injury.

In 2003 I was driving home from a party with some friends after we collected our A Level results. On the journey I crashed the car after losing control of the steering. I sustained a T5 level complete spinal cord injury. I was in rehab for around three months, and I also needed reconstructive surgery after sustaining significant facial injuries.

I had good rehab at the time, but there was still a lot missing. I could have done with a lot more information about living with a spinal cord injury. When I came out I started researching – then I found Back Up.

What were your experiences with Back Up?

My experiences with Back Up were transformative. I went on a multi activity course in Exmoor, which was amazing. I was able to try hand cycling, climbing, abseiling and kayaking, as well as having some wheelchair skills training.

I met other people with a spinal cord injury on this course, which was such an important experience. There were others who had lived with a spinal cord injury for a long time, so there was a lot of learning, sharing, and bonding.

How did Back Up make you feel more confident as a wheelchair user?

Learning wheelchair skills with Back Up was possibly one of the most important things that happened to me at the time. It gave me an enormous amount of independence. Wheelchair skill training helped remove the stigma of using a wheelchair – instead of seeing it as boring and difficult it felt fun and manageable.

Back Up gave me confidence as a wheelchair user. Not only because I learned practical skills, but it helped me meet other people in the spinal cord injury community. It was amazing to meet other wheelchair users and see how they managed their lives.

This training was the beginning of my journey as a wheelchair user. Since then my journey has been very successful, and I credit Back Up hugely.

A pair of photos of our patron and Heels for Wheels creator Sophie Morgan living life to the full

Could you tell me a bit about Heels for Wheels in your own words?

Heels for Wheels was inspired by a simple concept; I noticed how much people spend on high heels, and how the costs can equate to that of a high-end manual wheelchair. As a TV presenter, I noticed how personal stylists use shoes for shoots, which end up never being worn again. I thought there could be a great campaign around a second-hand market of shoes which tell a story. I thought the name was catchy too!

Earlier in the year when Back Up, like so many others, was struggling due to the covid-19 pandemic I suggested we try this campaign to raise funds and awareness.

Why is Heels for Wheels especially important now?

Like all disabled people, people with a spinal cord injury need support in these uncertain times. Back Up provides vital services, so this campaign is vital to prevent people with a spinal cord injury from suffering alone.

As well as raising funds for Back Up’s services, another important part of Heels for Wheels is raising awareness of spinal cord injury. The great thing about this campaign is that it engages with high-profile celebrities, giving them the chance to show their support and make more people aware of spinal cord injury.

We’re delighted that Sophie has supported us in running the Heels for wheels campaign. You can learn more about this campaign here. You can browse the shoes on offer now, and make a bid when the auction opens on 1 April.