Since having to leave theatre school early due to chronic fatigue syndrome, 21-year-old Georgina Wasdall has pursued her professional career in modelling and acting with passion. She was signed up for model agency Zebedee Management's ‘Everybody’s beautiful’ campaign which was featured on national TV and since 2017 has appeared in fashion shoots and promotional videos whilst continuing to audition for TV and movies.
However, her manual wheelchair has always held her back. She desperately needed a way of moving herself around without having to rely on others to push her. It was only when she started following American vlogger Lauren ‘Lolo’ Spencer on Instagram, who has a WHILL Model C, that Georgina discovered the ‘sickest’ powerchair in the world as she puts it.
“That’s the wheelchair for me.” she said immediately when she saw the WHILL for the first time online. “I’ve only got a small frame so had been looking for ages to find a product that wouldn’t drown me. I didn’t want a bulky machine so when I saw the sleek WHILL I had to find out more about it there and then. I spent a lot of time researching on the web and found TGA. I phoned and organised a safe home demonstration and assessment with them, I was so excited.”
She met Greg from TGA with her mum and dad and immediately fell in love with the WHILL. “They saw my instant reaction when I sat in it, I was beaming,” she says. “Greg simply said: “Search over?” and I said “Yep!” I wanted it instantly, I felt comfortable and confident right away – so different to when I tried a manual wheelchair for the first time. Then I felt insecure, nervous and self-conscious. Not with WHILL. My dad said it was great to see me hold myself properly when sitting. As a model I love style and fashion, this was a product that really represented me. I could be independent for the first time since a child and not have to be pushed around. I could now choose when I wanted to move.”
Georgina’s first trip out with her WHILL was to the Yorkshire Wildlife Park. “I kept leaving my family behind as the freedom was amazing!” she says. “The omni wheels are incredible, I can turn in the tightest of spaces and you don’t feel as if you are driving a heavy machine. It also doesn’t have a small fiddly stick to steer like others, I can use my whole palm which helps when fatigue is a problem.
“On my first day out, I did get really tired, it must have been all the excitement, so my younger sister ended up controlling my WHILL from her phone. It felt a bit weird at first using the app, like something out of a sci-fi movie, almost not real, but I got used to it in the end. That day showed immediately how my WHILL helped all the family. It was the same when we went to the Harry Potter experience at the Warner Brothers Studios. I wasn’t having to rely on someone to help me all the time. I had more time and space to look at everything and I know this sounds a bit odd, but we could enjoy each other’s reactions when looking at stuff. Before I always had my back to everyone so couldn’t see their faces.”
Georgina aims with her career to be a role model for younger people with disabilities. Someone to aspire to. She feels that disabled people are not represented enough in the media which she is determined to change. The WHILL has given her the confidence to ‘pursue my dreams with belief’ and has been important for keeping her motivated despite chronic fatigue. After spending several years withdrawn when she first became ill, she is determined to keep going with her interests in photography, art and dance – she believes her WHILL has made this possible.
“My WHILL is amazing on lots of surfaces – gravel, kerbs and grass, even cobbles,” she says. “It hardly seems to use any battery life either, more than enough for a long day out. It’s a nice-looking design however you see the person first, not the chair. It’s a new perspective on powerchairs and so many people want to know about it when they see it. It fits in my small Motability car which doesn’t have the biggest boot. I know I can get it in and out on my own however I haven’t driven for a while with my illness. When I’m stronger again I know I will be able to go out totally on my own for the first time. This was a big tick box for me plus it means we can all go out together as a family and explore as we used to do on bikes years ago.”
“It’s probably not the right word but the WHILL is trendy.” she concludes. “One thing I definitely know is that it boosts your confidence. People see me as not just being in a wheelchair now, there is more to me. Why can’t you still be stylish and love fashion if you use a wheelchair? You still want to dress up and look nice, right? Thanks to TGA for being supportive, you can tell they are a caring family-run business. Right from the start, I felt that I was being listened to.”