Wheelchair users are often very frustrated by some of the things that are said or done by abled people. Abled people often times don’t mean to frustrate wheelchair users but more often than not that is what they end up doing without realizing it. I am only a part-wheelchair so there aren’t quite as many things that frustrate me than, there would be if I was a full-time wheelchair user. As a part-time wheelchair user, there are a few things that frustrate me but everyone is different based on if they are a full or part-time wheelchair user.
Referring to us as wheelchair-bound- Every time I turn around I hear someone using the words wheelchair-bound or confined to a wheelchair to identify someone who is physically disabled and uses a wheelchair full-time to get around. People on the news use it all the time and sometimes my friends and family and every time I hear this term it makes me want to punch you in the face because of how wildly inaccurate and negative this term is. I am only a part-time wheelchair user but wheelchair users do not view themselves as wheelchair-bound because their chairs give them the independence and freedom to do many things independently and without assistance that they wouldn’t be able to do without their chairs.
My friend Karly who is a full-time wheelchair user has similar feelings of this term so I asked her what she thought of it and this is what she said: ” I hate the term “wheelchair-bound” because of the negative implication that my wheelchair is something trapping me or holding me back. The truth is the opposite. My wheelchair is my freedom, my greatest accessibility tool. Without it, I’d never be able to leave my home and rarely get out of my bed. I’m not bound to my wheelchair, my wheelchair is an extension of me. Karly also wrote a post explaining her thoughts on this phrase you can check it out at http://karlyjoy.com/wheelchair-bound/. Let’s stop referring to wheelchair users as wheelchair-bound because it is an extremely negative term and although we may need assistance with doing some transfers we are not bound to our chairs. Wheelchair users can get out of them and when you word it like that it sounds very negative and restrictive.
You can do anything– If I had a dollar for every time someone told me that I can do anything despite my disability I would never have to work a day in my life but its’ simply not true. I don’t feel sorry for myself and have accepted my disability for what it is but there are still plenty of activities that are physically not possible for me because of my disability. I will never be able to work my dream job, become an athlete or even be able to do something as simple as driving a car. When you pity me and tell me how I can do anything I put my mind to it really shows how uneducated you are about my disability and when people say stuff like that I usually end up arguing with them or just rolling my eyes because I know you are wrong!
When businesses claim there accessible but actually aren’t– When you make plans with your friends there is nothing more disappointing and discouraging than when the location you chose to meet at is not accessible! Accessibility does not end at ramps or getting through the doorways but unfortunately, that is the extent of many businesses and very frustrating to many wheelchair users! Before you make plans with your friends call ahead and ask the business owner questions about their facility to make sure it is accessible for you and if it isn’t, find a new place to hang out! You may not be able to control the accessibility of many businesses but it is always more frustrating when you have to leave because of inaccessibility than it would have been if you just made a few phone calls.
Staring at my chair– When people stare as if we had some incurable disease and don’t ask questions it comes off as rude and makes us very anxious because we want to know what you are thinking and if you are making any false accusations of us. Our wheelchairs aren’t anything new so you can stop staring at it like it’s something you’ve never seen before because it’s anything but new! If you have questions approaching a wheelchair user and asking your questions is more polite than just staring and less scary than you may think! Wheelchair users won’t bite and can carry on a conversation just like an abled person can so it’s okay to ask a few questions every now and then.
Abled people parking in accessible parking- If you don’t need to park in a handicapped parking spot be honest and don’t park there because it can be really frustrating when you have a disability and need those parking spaces and can’t get them because they are being taken by people who don’t really need them. Some disabled people cannot walk long distances like an abled person can and even though it may be convenient for you to park a little bit closer it is pure torture for some disabled people to walk that extra distance. Have some common courtesy and don’t park in accessible parking if you don’t need to!
Asking me to race– It’s cheesy and when you ask a wheelchair user if they would like to race or how fast does that thing go we inwardly roll their eyes and think “haven’t heard that one before”. A wheelchair user might laugh or even give you a little bit of a chuckle when you say comments like this to make you feel better but for many wheelchair users, it is anything but amusing.
Continuing to help even after I’ve said no- One of my biggest pet peeves is when you continue to help or just go ahead and do something for me even after I have said I don’t need it. Wheelchair users may need assistance with a lot of daily activities and when you just go ahead and do something for them you are taking away the little independence they have and that can be really frustrating! Some wheelchair users are very limited on what they can do for themselves and when you go ahead and do everything for them it may seem like you are being helpful but a wheelchair user may not see it that way and become very frustrated that you will not let them do things on there own. If a wheelchair user needs help with something they will ask otherwise they probably don’t need your help.
Sometimes abled people frustrate wheelchair users without trying to because they legitimately don’t see the harm in what they are saying or they think they are being funny Disabled people and abled are going to view disability-related topics differently so although you may not see the harm in something a disabled person may not see it that way and be very offended by it. What some people don’t realize is that comments like let’s race that are supposed to be funny aren’t to a disabled person because wheelchair users hear it all the time and are sick of hearing it. Some people legitimately do not know how to talk to a wheelchair user so they may say something that can be considered rude or insensitive but talking to us is not any different than it would be if you were having a conversation with your abled friends. There are so many things that frustrate wheelchair user and I could not have possibly named them all so wheelchair users what frustrates you the most? How do you deal with these frustrations?