4 Misconceptions About People in Wheelchairs

I’ve spent most of my life using walking aids. I got my first pair of crutches age 12 and my first walking stick at 14. Now, almost 35, I spend most of the time outside my flat in a self-propelled wheelchair. I’ve had that chair a few months, and to me it’s a Godsend, but the misconceptions I’ve encountered since I got my chair are many. Here are just a few.

You must be so limited in what you can do.

Sure, not all places are geared to let a wheelchair in, but mostly my chair, whom I’ve nicknamed Lupa, is a symbol of freedom. She’s taken over from legs that just don’t support me properly anymore. I can go out with my sister daily, I can see friends. I don’t tire as quickly. Conventions are hugely easier because I don’t have to constantly stand in queues.

I should talk to the person pushing you.

No. No you really shouldn’t. My sister is likely pushing me because of my pain levels that day. I’m a human being, and actually, if I’ve asked you a question about something you should respond to me. Even if I wasn’t communicative it would be the polite thing to do. Every human being deserves common courtesy and respect. And furthermore if you took the time to talk to someone in a chair you might actually get to know someone who has an amazing personality.

People in wheelchairs can’t have sex.

his is a rather broad sweeping statement that actually annoys a lot of us. Now if you ask my medical team, they’ll tell you the only reason I can’t have sex is if I don’t want to have sex. Everything works. With fibromyalgia, I’m probably not wanting to join the acrobatic tantric movement anytime soon, but that doesn’t mean I’m not able to if I don’t want to. As for others, it depends on their conditions and their desires. You can’t tell if someone can have sex or not just by seeing that they are in a wheelchair.

You have no quality of life.

Actually I have a great quality of life. I’ve seen the pity in your eyes as you give me one of those smiles that says “poor dear.” I love my life. I may moan about not being able to hold down a job, and I may grumble about pain levels, but I have an amazing group of people in my life, I self-publish, I sketch, I create digital art, I blog, I charity fundraise, I look after my rodents. Just because I don’t do things at the speed you might doesn’t mean I don’t have an amazing quality of life.

woman in a wheelchair giving a rock on hand sign

The judgments we make based on what we see are often so innate we don’t even realize it. But maybe we can change that by challenging ourselves and those around us to look at things differently.

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