Another day, another international awareness campaign. Today we are celebrating International Wheelchair Day. And I can definitely get behind that by revamping an old facebook post I wrote on this topic because my main goal in life is to get people to act less weird about wheelchairs.
I don’t love being sick and having my joints and tendons dislocate on me on the regular. It’s quite annoying and painful and I just wouldn’t highly recommend it. It definitely makes my life challenging a lot of the time and gets a very low score on my Yelp review.
But while I don’t love the pain of my disability, something I DO love is my wheelchair. It is like my wonderful best friend who provides me with support whenever I need it. It gives me days out of my bed and out of my house. It brings me on adventures and gives me a fighting chance to be able to stay out for longer and experience new things. It gives me more opportunities to be with the people I love so I can laugh loudly and enjoy my life. It also lets me get around my house and do boring but necessary house things.
So when I see people react to someone like me using a wheelchair by being visibly sad or worried about it, I can’t help but roll my eyes. Way too often we hear things like “what a sin!” or “I wouldn’t be brave enough to go out in public with that,” or “it’s too bad you ENDED UP in a wheelchair.” These devices aren’t an end point or a flashing Game Over sign but they’re treated like it constantly.
I am often told that I am a brave, courageous, inspirational woman because I sit down in a chair with wheels and even have the guts to leave the house in it. I’m literally told by people that they would never be able to live like me, because of my wheelchair. You’re a very dramatic bunch sometimes.
So many people see wheelchairs or other mobility aids as the worst case scenario, a huge sign of defeat. But it’s really not that at all. I have a disability that changed how my body works, and my wheelchair is a useful tool that helps me continue to do the things I need or want to do in life. Sure, I might have to do things differently while sitting down and it might be more challenging at times, but that’s because this world refuses to be built with disability in mind. Don’t blame the wheelchair for that.
I urge you to pay attention to the language you use to discuss mobility aids. Language matters and the more we speak of wheelchairs and other mobility aids as helpful tools to be utilized as needed, the less stigma and pity will be attached to someone who needs to use one.
I’m just a person who sits down in a chair with wheels. Please stop being so emotional about that. It’s fine. My life isn’t over. If you really want to help, stop pitying me and just build me a ramp.