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When I Feel Invisible in My Wheelchair


Whenever I go out somewhere with my husband or friends, I have to use either my scooter or a wheelchair to get around more than a few feet.  This is because I have lupus and rheumatoid arthritis; things hurt a lot, I get exhausted quickly etc. I’ve had my own wheelchair for six years now, since about a year after I was diagnosed. It’s extremely well traveled, having been to Florida with me twice and around Disney World several times!

We love the House of the Mouse; practically everywhere is flat and accessible.  And yes, that matters. I no longer visit a town nearby that used to be a favorite shopping destination, purely and simply because it has done nothing at all to help disabled people and seems to be completely disinterested in listening to ideas. So I’ve gone elsewhere. But not everything about being disabled in mid-life has options, and when you’re in a wheelchair being pushed by someone else there are some unexpected issues you may have to face.

The biggest thing I’ve noticed and never expected is that I seem to be invisible. People talk to my husband who’s pushing the chair and say things to him like, “Can she transfer?” or “Does she need any help?” Bless them for asking, but I’m right here. I can speak for myself! What is it about being in a wheelchair that makes many people assume I’m incapable of any kind of direct conversation?

I’ve had a think about this dispassionately, and I believe it’s all about fear. Anyone behaving “differently” is often looked at sideways and rushed past. Please don’t be afraid. I’m still me and I’m not invisible!

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Thinkstock photo by Ivonne W.