During my time as a volunteer at Sizanani Children’s Home in Bronkhorstspruit, South Africa I came to know Ruth Stubbs and her work very well. Ruth is a passionate advocate for the rights of people with Disabilities. She is a highly skilled and experienced seating specialist, who believes emphatically in the need for good, individualised seating for people with disabilities. Her absolute belief is that this does not need to be provided through the most expensive equipment on the market, and her extensive skills and knowledge enable her to adapt and customise equipment provided to individuals by the government, in a very bespoke fashion to meet the needs of even the most complex physical cases, whilst incurring minimal costs.
Good, consistent postural management is essential in meeting the needs of people with disabilities. It helps to reduce deterioration in their condition and thus promotes health. It enables people to live more comfortable lives. When someone has a wheelchair that fits and supports them correctly, it can be the gateway to transforming their life. They can be fed or eat more safely, be in a position that allows them to observe and engage with people and the world and thus develop communication skills, it also gives them safe and comfortable access to the outdoors and their local community and reduces some of the physical strains on their carers and families. The value of good seating for someone with a disability cannot be underestimated and Ruth consistently strives for this in each individual case. This seating also needs to be reviewed regularly and Ruth tireless and patiently commits to this.
During the monthly seating intervention clinics at Sizanani that I attended, Ruth always worked with dedication, vision, passion and skill to transform both second hand equipment, and newly prescribed (but completely non-personalised) equipment, into highly personalised seating which met the needs of the individual. This always involved adding and removing sponge and cushions in different places, adjusting the length of supporting straps, considering the tilt of the chair, and the position of foot boxes and whether there was a need for a head extension board or foot board. Where possible she would always take into account the wishes of the individual, and introduced changes slowly over a number of visits where necessary, to enable individuals to slowly and comfortably work towards a new, better, improved seating position, which over time brings long term benefits to their health and wellbeing. During her seating interventions Ruth always had the opportunity to impart her knowledge to staff and / or parents, and to advocate for the reasons behind, and absolute necessity of, good seating positions for people with disabilities. In her passionate belief about this, Ruth always seized these opportunities to diplomatically advocate in the best interests of the individual using the wheelchair. In every case, the changes that she made to wheelchairs resulted in the individual being seated more upright and comfortably supported in a better position.
Ruth has a wealth of knowledge and during these clinic she has also been able to offer advice on how to use wedges pillows and towels to support people in good lying positions, whilst also offering training and advice on the use of standing frames and walking aids.
Her monthly visits offer an invaluable contribution to the general welfare of the residents at the home, and help to support incredibly dedicated staff, who are predominantly skilled and caring but without professional qualification, deliver high quality seating, postural management and care to the residents. As an independent visitor who will always advocate for the rights of those she is visiting, her monthly visits to the various homes that she goes to, also help to ensure that standards and thus quality of care for individuals do not slip.
In previous employment and through working with our day care staff and families she has experience of working with and supporting families with disabled children and family members, with a wide variety of needs. She is committed to offering families invaluable advice and support about services that they are entitled to and will always do her utmost to support individuals in accessing these.
In supporting Ruth to do what she does best through the Paige Project, you would be offering countless children, young people and adults with severe disability, many of whom cannot advocate for themselves, the opportunity of living a happier, more comfortable and healthy, fulfilled life.