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No, You Can't Take a 'Joyride' in My Wheelchair

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I sit in front of you today, possibly in a wheelchair, possibly without. Her name is HotWheelz, like the cars you played with as a kid. She is mine and only mine.

No, you cannot push me. If I wanted help, I would ask. But the minute you grab the handles on my chair and start to push me, you are violating me. My wheelchair is not a possession, it is a part of my body. You don’t grab someone’s shoulder unannounced, so why would you grab my chair? And when I tell you to knock it off, you make excuses about how you think you’re doing the right thing. It’s not the right thing to violate someone, to touch them and move them and tip them back without consent. Even if I look like I’m struggling, you cannot touch my chair and push me. Just don’t do it.

No, you cannot “take a joyride” in my chair. This chair is because I physically cannot walk today. Why would you want that? My chair is mine. I use it accordingly, and properly, and it is definitely not “fun.” Don’t you think I would rather be up and walking like you, instead of being left out from places and activities that are inaccessible? So no, you cannot take a joyride in my chair. Don’t do it, don’t ask for it.

And no, it is not awesome that I “don’t have to walk,” or that I can’t work. How do you think it feels to be rolling around a world that isn’t accessible, and that is tailored to the exact opposite of you? That big ramp up there, sure, they put it there so it’s accessible, but it’s so steep that I can’t push myself up it. That bathroom stall? Yeah, 90% of places don’t have a stall big enough to fit my wheelchair inside. So what am I supposed to do? Pee with the door open, for all the world to see my struggle to get on and off of the toilet? And don’t even get me started about going shopping. The tiny isles, the high shelves, not being able to reach anything. Going out to eat is just as frustrating. The waiter takes us to our table and he just stops there without removing the chair, looking at me like I can magically stand up and transfer to that chair without any support. Dude, move the damn chair so my wheelchair can fit there.

No, it’s not awesome that I can’t work, or as you put it, that I “don’t have to.” I love my job. I absolutely adore it. I’m a lifeguard and swim instructor, and my swim kids are my literal pride and joy. I haven’t seen them, I haven’t been able to teach them in months. Months without a paycheck, months of my mom having to transfer money into my account at the bank because I’m running out. That green paper is a lot more than just green paper. So no, it’s not awesome that I can’t work. Not awesome at all.

Rolling around in a world that’s not accessible sucks. And the next time I hear someone say something inconsiderate, or the next time a stranger touches my chair, I might just lose my shit. So maybe actually think before you talk about how awesome it is to sit in a rolling chair all day or how awesome it is that I don’t have to work. Believe it or not, many people in wheelchairs are really fed up with this.

So just don’t, OK?

Just don’t.

Getty image by photographer.

Originally published: October 19, 2020
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