International Wheelchair Day 🧑🦼👨🏽🦼👨🏼🦼
March 1st was international wheelchair day.
I didn't realise this until the evening - I tend to let most of these things pass me by because they don't actually achieve anything. That feeling showed in the post I put on Facebook:
"Apparently it's been International Wheelchair day today.......
That's nice then.
#Sarcasm" One of my friends went along with my apparent sarcasm with the reply:
"Let's hope all the wheelchairs all over the world felt a warm and fuzzy love all day 😁😁"
Having just got my wheelchair back from its service, I replied that it had had a spa day that week. It was a bit of a giggle....but with a slight edge to it.
I was a bit more serious on Twitter and posted: "Some have told me they'd rather be dead than 'wheelchair bound' (Thanks for that positivity!) I am not 'bound to it', nor am I 'confined' to it. I use it as a tool. It gives me freedom to live my life. [and in normal times - the energy to work full time.] #InternationalWheelchairDay"
It quickly became apparent that some of my friends didn't realise I regularly use a wheelchair. Let alone the fact I have three: A manual one from the NHS... (that isn't fit for purpose and I can't use independently). A folding power chair for if a venue is only partially accessible - and for shopping. And a rigid power chair with electronic recline - built to fit me and great for conferences and meetings where access is good. (We had to buy the power chairs ourselves - disabled people don't automatically get everything they need)
Anyway, I had to explain that I'd been using a wheelchair for many years!
I also explained that fear and pride had kept me from using it at church, and that this needed to change when I could get back into the church building.
I'm going to explain why some people whose disability is degenerative are afraid to use a wheelchair around people who know them, by letting you know what comments I get, what questions are asked (You are allowed to laugh at these), and how people often view me.
I'm posting them mainly for fun, but also because it's good to know these things. It's not easy when people change how they see you just because of four wheels.
How do some people view me when they see the wheelchair? (Even if they knew me before the wheelchair!)
Sometimes I get congratulated for crossing the road, ordering a coffee or just travelling on a train.
Sometimes train staff go into a flat panic when they realise I'm going to be travelling *alone!* (I travelled regularly even before the wheelchair)
Many assume when I'm on the train that I'm going shopping or to see a show. Rarely is it assumed that I'm travelling for work.
Apparently I inspire people by just going to the loo..... (I'll leave that one there).
How do people act around me?
This is a mixed bag.... Some people are great, they see the human being and treat me no differently to anyone else.
But then there's the others......
They speak to me in sing song fashion as if I'm a child. Some stroke my arm whilst talking to me. Some tilt their head on one side and say something to the effect of you're so brave to..... (add anything 'normal' people do here).
Some just say "awwww" as if I'm a cute kitten (I'm 55 and have a nursing degree!)
Others think I'm fussy for asking for adaptions, support etc.
Sadly there are some men who consider me to me an easy sexual target.....they don't last long - I'm NOT an easy target and I'm not afraid to point the them out to the police (having run over the perpetrators toes or yelled what they are trying to do)
What questions/comments do I get? (My 'In my head' answers are in brackets)
Have you passed your test in that? (If I had a penny for every time..... Yes, yes I have, and that means - if I run over your toes: a. You were the one not looking where you were going. b. It was deliberate.)
Does it have booster rockets? (No, just a grenade launcher for people who ask silly questions....that I've heard a gazillion times.)
Can't your husband have a skateboard attached to the back to keep up? (Actually, I adjust my speed so we we can walk/roll together....holding hands.....aaaand he would fall off a skateboard).
What's wrong with you anyway? (Nope - don't answer that)
Have you tried: Yoga, drinking more water, eating more kale, cutting out sweeteners, getting more sleep/less sleep, mindfulness - and anything else considered a trendy miracle cure (Sigh....)
The friend of my second cousin twice remove had that and they don't need a wheelchair! (Well bully for them...)
What - Wait - you're married!!!?? (Well, yes. they do allow crips to marry nowadays!)
So, how do you and your *Husband*.... you know.... "Do married stuff" (Mind you're own flippin business!! Would you ask a non disabled person that?)
Can I have a ride on your lap? (WHAT?!)
You're too pretty to be in 'that thing'. (Well, thanks, I think!)
But, but, but......you just stood up....and walked to the loo. (Yes, because the accessible loo isn't actually accessible - and many people who use a wheelchair can walk)
Can I pray for your healing......? Me - "NO". Person then proceeds to 'lay hands on me' anyway...and hurts me in the process.
It's due to a generational curse - I need to pray for you NOW. (No, no you don't - you need to go check your theology - NOW)
And much, much, much, more! Too many to list
And also just for fun - here's a list I put in an article a while ago, entitled "You know you're a wheelchair user when":
• You feel like doing a puppet show at the high counter
at the chemists, just so someone will see you’re there.
• When paying at the till in the supermarket turns into a
circus act and the cashier breaks the card machine
trying to get it out of its holder.
• When you have to yell “coming through” in a clothes
shop, because no one can see you between the
• When people gasp if you stand up.
• When you can’t go to the loo without everyone in
your meeting knowing where you’re going. (Powerchairs announce your departure with various loud beeps)
• When you drive over the alarm chord in the loo and
set it going – and then can’t pull the chord free
because it’s caught in the wheel.
• When a phone zombie walks straight into you even
though you’re stationary (And obvious!) – then yells
that you “need to learn how to drive that thing”. This
is often followed by you resisting the urge to drive
over their toes...or even their phone.
• The train manager refers to you as “The Wheelchair”
• When those used to putting their luggage in the
wheelchair space on a train stand and stare at you for an
eternity in the hope you will evaporate under their
• When you’re tempted to lurch out of your chair to
raid the drinks trolley on the train because assistance
is taking an age to arrive and get you off.
You can't go for a quick coffee/meal with friends - because you can't get into the coffee shop/cafe.
You can't go to that conference or meeting you really wanted to attend, because it's upstairs and there's no lift.
Hope that made you laugh - and helped you understand some of the issues we face. (And maybe why some of us might get just a bit grumpy...)