How I Experience the World in My Stretto

At the end of December, my first-ever power chair was delivered! I’m ecstatic to be a new ambassador for Quantum and to share my journey with you.

I am a mom of three and a professor who studies, writes and talks about disability…a lot! I have osteogenesis imperfecta. My bones break easily and I’m a little person at just over four feet tall. I’ve used a manual wheelchair for as long as I can remember. I see my wheelchairs as tools for freedom. They are a part of me.

New Paths to Freedom

Some people are embarrassed to age. I am so very grateful for every year of life that I see aging as both a reality and a privilege. For people with OI, we usually fracture our bones the most as kids. Then we once again become more susceptible to fractures as we get older. Life between childhood and aging is sometimes called the honeymoon because we break less frequently due to being at the height of our bone density. My last major fracture occurred four years ago. It left me mostly immobilized because I couldn’t elevate my leg in my manual chair. An arm fracture could also leave me stranded. Having a power chair offers the chance to keep living life no matter what my bones throw my way.

My Favorite Feature on My Stretto

My favorite feature so far of my Stretto Power Wheelchair is the ability to totally customize my seating height and angle. If I want to reach something in a high cabinet, I can elevate 12 inches. If I want to take some pressure off my hip, I can tilt back. When I need to pull a 20-pound box of cat litter across the floor, I can go low, grab the handle and drive it where I need it to go. I’m literally seeing my house in a way I never have before. And while I typically avoid sappy reflections on disability (because the world provides us plenty of those), it has been special to hug my 11-year old at her full height. She’s even requested hugs to take in the feeling.

Adjusting, Learning, Adapting

There’s a learning curve to adapting to any new piece of mobility equipment. While the footprint of my Stretto Power Wheelchair is smaller than any comparable wheelchair, it’s spaced differently than my manual chair. I’m learning to account for more room in the back as I make turns. (RIP dog bowl!) Taking it a little slower helps me figure out new dimensions around the house.

It’s also fascinating how our brains shift to make sense of moving in a manual wheelchair compared to a power wheelchair and then to back to manual. There have been times I’ve thought to move when back in my manual chair and lifted my arm subconsciously as if there’s a joystick! Further proof I suppose that our chairs become a part of us. Ideally, we learn to move so smoothly and effortlessly that we no longer think about it.

What’s Next?

I cannot wait to get to know this new piece of me. I’m looking forward to adventures outside, practicing working with my service dog, Rocky, and getting more confident in the kitchen. Many thanks to those who have welcomed me to the Quantum community. Find me on Instagram @KaraAyers to follow my adventures.

About Kara Ayers: Kara is a mother of three and lives in Ohio. She is an associate professor at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital and Medical Center. In 2021, Kara spoke to the Biden-Harris COVID-19 Equity Taskforce about the need for people with disabilities to access the COVID-19 vaccine. Click here to learn more about Kara.

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