Active woman and in love with her city, Paris, Sylvie Larrede acquired her very first electric chair, the Ergo 07 model, a few months ago. A difficult but healthy decision for Sylvie, who explains that she experienced it as a “rebirth”. Meeting with a luminous woman.
How did you find out about ErgoConcept?
After a long period of one year, which was very difficult, because I’ve been informed that I had an illness that would gradually make me less independent. As my upper and lower limbs were rapidly weakening, it seemed essential to me to find an electric mobility solution. At that time, social security and my occupational therapist directed me to a manual chair, to which I could have added an electric adapter, but I felt I needed something lighter, I couldn’t see myself walking around Paris in an 80 kg chair! Also, there are a lot of places not accessible in the Capital. So I hesitated between an electric wheelchair and an adapted scooter. I contacted the Handicap.fr network by email for advice. They directed me to two brands of wheelchairs, including ErgoConcept, and told me that the scooter was not recommended because of the position of my hands.
Why did you choose ErgoConcept?
For 2 reasons. Firstly, I wanted to try out my future electric chair before I bought it. ErgoConcept seemed safer than the other brand that did not have resellers network or after-sales service in Paris. If I have a problem with the wheelchair, I want to have someone help me solve the problem. My husband is a handyman but, well, I prefer to have assistance at home. So I contacted Maidé, a specialist in medical equipment, and spoke to Cécile Chabut, ErgoConcept ambassador, who helped me choose between the Ergo 07 and 09 models. I almost instinctively picked up the 07 chair, which was directed delivered to me and set up right away.
Secondly, at the same time on social networks, I watched a video that showed a very pretty girl in the ErgoConcept wheelchair. (editor’s note: this is Ludivine, aka Ludhelys). She made me laugh because she explained that it matters to her having a beautiful wheelchair.. and I totally agree with her! Why should it necessarily be ugly? Me, I take care of myself, I’m pretty and there’s no reason for it to change! I’m still the same person in a chair. I also thought the Ergo 07 was pretty, and I immediately styled it by adding “Aston Martin” logos because it looks like me. I often have fun saying that I’m in a cabriolet wheelchair …
How has the purchase of this wheelchair changed your daily life?
It allowed me to get out of a long period of withdrawal during which I only went out to see the physiotherapist, the doctor or to go to work because I had difficulty walking. I can say that this chair changed my life! I received it in the summer of 2017 and I immediately travelled all over Paris, the bateaux-mouches, the Champs Élysées, the little streets, I even climbed the Eiffel Tower, it goes everywhere… it’s my city but it was a real rebirth for me. And as this chair is also very light and foldable, I was able to organize small trips and weekends, in Cabourg for example, a place I’ve always loved, it’s really ultra practical. I also go twice a week to the care center at Les Invalides, where many people are jealous of my new chair. My next challenge is to take the train by myself.
It has also changed the way people look at me, on the one hand my friends and family were sad to see me in a wheelchair, as if they were aware of my handicap, on the other hand, strangers have tried to help me… And even if there are always the rare “jerks” who make you feel uncomfortable in the street or elsewhere, in the end, it has made me feel more positive, the main thing is to feel alive.
Has the way people looking at you changed
Yes, just as I needed to prepare myself psychologically to move around in a wheelchair, and I’m still working on it, there’s a milestone to pass for my close circle of friends and family. Some people started to cry when they saw me, it’s very hard for them, and even for my husband. I have to show them that being in a wheelchair is not a problem, that I’m smiling and that they shouldn’t be sad for me because I’m having fun and I’m moving forward. Now there’s no problem, they understand that I’m the same, always fun and dressed up, in a little dress or other feminine outfit (except on rainy days!). Especially since I can still walk! A lot of people don’t understand that a lot of people in wheelchairs can still walk, even a little… and with mine, I walk a lot!
On the other hand, I haven’t yet gone to work in a wheelchair, I’m still afraid of the look of my colleagues, but I’m getting ready for it, with small actions to start surprising them, like arriving in a suit when I never put on pants… I’m going to pass the milestone soon. Publishing beautiful pictures on my networks and testifying in this article are small steps that help me express what I feel in a wheelchair; life goes on and you can be beautiful in a thousand ways.
Any suggestions to improve your daily movements?
Concerning the wheelchair, I would like to think about a lighting system to be more visible at night, especially in winter when darkness falls very early. A light would make it easier to spot (editor’s note: ErgoConcept recently release the FlashLight Accessory). I would also add a louder doorbell and a nice raincoat that would prevent me from looking like a garbage bag on wet days (laughs) …
Finally, I notice how problematic the lack of accessibility is in everyday life. For example, some boats (lowering sidewalks) are not facing each other in the streets, it is dangerous when crossing, or the sidewalk stops suddenly. The other day, a grandpa yelled at me while I was backing up on the street because a car was going to hit me. The same thing happens in shopping streets, like Rue du Commerce for example, if you want to go shopping you will realize that most of them have stairs. Or in the Paris metro, only line 14 is accessible ! … and they talk of making transport free for disabled people ?! Last example which illustrates the lack of coherence of some ads; the Versailles Palace is well accessible but all around, there are cobblestones… which makes access very difficult! In the same style, there were some very hard moments, like when we wanted to visit Honfleur and I realised that there were only old-fashioned cobblestones in the centre, I had a fit of tears, and we went straight home. We need to create more footbridges to blur the line between people who are completely mobile and people who are not.