6 Things I'm Tired of Hearing as a Wheelchair User
I understand you may be curious. I understand you’ve never used a wheelchair, and you think it may make life easier. I understand you’re looking at things from an able-bodied point of view, and I’m trying to be empathetic to your standpoint. But for future reference, here’s a list of comments many of us in wheelchairs are pretty fed up of hearing:
1.Maybe I should get a wheelchair.
If you don’t have a disability, you shouldn’t. I get it. You’re exhausted at the end of the week and you would rather not have to schlep through town or round the supermarket. The chances are you’ve spent a lot of time at your job standing, or running around after your kids, but wheelchairs are not easy to use (particularly manual ones), and when you use them daily, the novelty wears off pretty quickly.
2. Poor thing, they really should have a power wheelchair.
Those of us with manual chairs use them for a variety of reasons. I get that you saw me pushing myself up the hill today in town without assistance, but did it honestly look like I was struggling? It wasn’t as if I was on the big hill up to the supermarket that has the steeper incline and is a lot longer. I was enjoying a nice day out. But furthermore, the local wheelchair services won’t give me a power wheelchair unless I pay for it because I don’t qualify for higher mobility disability payments (PIP in the U.K.). And a second hand chair still costs a fair amount of money, so perhaps you’d like to pay for it?
3. The pram/buggy/stroller doesn’t fit in the restroom stall, or there was no one waiting for the accessible stall.
This doesn’t change the fact that the accessible toilet is not meant for you. I’m sorry, but having a child in one of the aforementioned items doesn’t mean you get the right to use a toilet designed for people with disabilities. A pram/buggy/stroller can be folded. It can be left by the sink. It can be left with the other person you’re shopping with. You have a plethora of options. Nine times out of 10, those of us who need the accessible toilet only have access to one of them, while you have access to multiple cubicles.
4. How long does it take to use the toilet/baby changing room?
First off, I get that some accessible stalls also contain the baby changing table, but there’s still an accessible toilet in the stall, which is what it was designed for in the first place. So calm your horses and wait. And don’t give me that look when I come out of the toilet and you’re still waiting to go in there. I have as much right to use the facilities as anyone else.
5. We’re doing the best we can under the circumstances.
This one usually comes from companies whom you point out lack of accessibility. For example, I recently complained about a well known Science Fiction/Comic Convention company in the U.K. because their requirements for disabled access include a doctor’s note or emailing copies of private confidential government letters as proof of requiring a carer and/or timed entry. A friend was still turned down after sending in her proof. It’s not like I want a free carer’s pass; I just want to know my carer can enter with me at a time/place which is not going to involve me being climbed over by other attendees (it’s happened before). One of their volunteers actually told me they were doing their best under the circumstances.
There is no “best under the circumstances.” There should only be, “We appreciate your concerns and will look into it,” followed up by actually looking into it and getting back to the person who voiced the concerns. Particularly if someone tells you that you’re alienating a large part of your consumer base with your policies/behavior.
6. Aren’t you getting a little too worked up over this?
What am I getting worked up over? Being treated like a second or third class citizen? Being unable to access a particular activity or place due to the lack of understanding of the organizer or owner, when it should be easy for them to make adjustments? Then no, I’m not getting “a little too worked up.” Am I tired of being stared at by people whose attitude shows they don’t think that disabled people should be allowed out of the house? Yes. Am I fed up of others trying to control my emotions and responses? Yes. So please, back off.
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Getty image by Pink Badger.