Spinal Cord Injury Awareness Day 2021: Emma’s story

Emma, a wheelchair user. This spinal cord injury awareness day, learn how our app helped her

Back Up worked with Cognizant to develop a wheelchair skills training app to reach even more people with a spinal cord injury during the coronavirus pandemic. Read on for a Back Up case study about Emma, who sustained a spinal cord injury last year and found support through the wheelchair skills app.

Although the coronavirus pandemic stopped us from visiting newly injured people in hospital, it hasn’t prevented us from transforming lives affected by spinal cord injury. We created a new wheelchair skills app at the height of the pandemic, so that we can help people with a spinal cord injury rebuild their confidence and independence – wherever they are.

One of the people who made use of this app was stay at home mum Emma. She sustained her spinal cord injury right before the start of the coronavirus pandemic. A herniated disk caused Cauda Equina syndrome, resulting in a spinal cord injury at L5/S1.

“It was hard sustaining my injury before lockdown. It was very isolating and frightening. I found it difficult not seeing my family – I missed them terribly.

“None of the usual activities could happen. I wasn’t able to have wheelchair skills training from Back Up. We weren’t able to learn what life would be like as a wheelchair user since we couldn’t meet former patients.”

Although Back Up couldn’t deliver wheelchair skills training in person, we adapted our services and started creating new digital offerings. Part of this was our wheelchair skills app. When she was out of hospital, Emma saw our app advertised on Facebook. She downloaded it, and started practising from home.

“At the time lockdown was easing, I wanted to get more confident in using my wheelchair. I was about to head back into the big wide world, so I needed to practice.

“I knew how to use my chair, but I wanted to do more than push around. I wanted to do things like get up and down kerbs without fear.”

Our wheelchair skills app is designed for everyone with a spinal cord injury, including power chair users. The app is full of video tutorials demonstrating vital wheelchair skills, ranging from basic pushing to more advanced skills.

“The videos were easy to follow. They weren’t too long or drawn out. I found that I quickly became more in control of my chair.

“The app showed me I was doing certain things wrong while using my wheelchair – things like leaning forward too far, which made me tip. The app showed me what I needed to correct, making me much more comfortable in my wheelchair.”

For Emma, one of the best parts of the app was being able to see others with a spinal cord injury who can confidently use their wheelchair. The video tutorials in our app are presented by Back Up staff and volunteers, all of whom have a spinal cord injury themselves.

“It was good to see others with a spinal cord injury in the videos. Spinal cord injury changes your whole body. Someone who doesn’t have a spinal cord injury won’t understand what it’s like.

After using the app, Emma feels much more confident. She is now ready to tackle obstacles that may lie ahead, safe in the knowledge that she has the right skills.

“I feel much more confident. I will keep using the app to practice in the future.”

You can download the Back Up wheelchair skills app on iOS and Android. Be sure to leave us a rating if it has also helped you learn new skills after spinal cord injury.