Posted on: 30 November 2021

When a patient is first given a wheelchair, sometimes there’s a feeling that their sense of freedom has gone, but Sau Tran, Wheelchair Service Business Manager, who is a wheelchair user herself, says “nothing is impossible, it’s just a matter of finding another way to do it.”


Earlier this month, full-time wheelchair users in the care of Camden and Islington Wheelchair Service learned key skills to help with crossing uneven surfaces and going downstairs.


On hearing about the wheelchair skills course, Richard Cartwright, one of CNWL’s Non-Executive Board Members said, “I’m delighted to see CNWL helping wheelchair users by supporting wheelchair skills sessions. As someone with a spinal cord injury I understand the difficulty of learning how to use a wheelchair and the importance of sharing experiences with others”.


Pete Donnelly from Wheelchair Skills College led the session, he said:

“It’s been great seeing patients, some coming for the first time, practicing skills and developing throughout the day, both in terms of the skills they’ve learned but their confidence as well. It’s great to work in partnership with Camden and Islington Wheelchair Service because we have the goal that every person given a wheelchair has the opportunity to go on a course like this and utilise skills that can change their life.”

Wheelchair Skills College travel the country and deliver training to help active users get the skills they need to open up previously inaccessible spaces. Learn more about Wheelchair Skills here.


Sau Tran said, “I have a spinal cord injury and since working at the Wheelchair Service, I have found that people with other types of conditions do not have the same level of support and cannot access resources such as these skills courses. Since wheelchair services provide the wheelchairs, I think it should be their responsibility to provide basic skills that help people get on with their daily lives. There’s a noticeable difference in confidence when patients realise they are able to do it on their own and it makes them think they can take on other challenges they thought would not have been possible.”

The skills course is more than a learning group, it's a chance for other wheelchair users to meet and share their experiences. There was a supportive atmosphere throughout the day, each patient and staff member cheered each other on.


One patient said, “I’ve been out of the rehab hospital for two years and this is the first time I’ve had wheelchair skills training since. I’ve felt very supported today, another patient here is a mum of two and she’s been giving me some pointers on what to do because I’m a mum of two as well.”


Ross Graves, Executive Director of Partnerships and Commercial Development, was invited by Sau to try out some of the skills being taught to get first-hand experience on what it can be like starting out for the first time in a wheelchair. Ross said, “It gave me the opportunity to better understand the accessibility challenges our patients and staff in wheelchairs face on a daily basis. It was great to meet with Sau, patients and colleagues from CNWL’s wheelchair services - our wheelchair services and our Disabled Employees Network and allies do brilliant work.”


The Wheelchair Service would like to offer the wheelchair skills course to CNWL staff who are active wheelchair users too. If you are a CNWL staff member and this is something you would be interested in please email; when further courses are announced you will be contacted.

See videos from the skills course below: