Before you approach a wheelchair user think about how you would feel if you were on the receiving end of what is coming out of your mouth. Here are 10 of the most common things I’ve heard since being a wheelchair user.
1. ”Oh it must suck being in a wheelchair. I couldn’t do it.”
Do you think I am in a wheelchair by choice? Take that negativity somewhere else. There is a positive in every negative. If I looked at wheel life with your attitude I would be miserable. With that said it must suck not having a seat everywhere you go.
2. ”You’re too pretty to be in a chair.”
Disability doesn’t discriminate. At any moment in time disability can affect you changing your life forever. Just because you’re smart, funny, pretty, etc does not mean you can avoid an accident caused by someone else.
3. “What do you need the wheelchair for? You don’t look paralyzed your legs are thick.”
But really I use Wearable Therapy by Axiobionics. It’s electric stimulation shorts I sleep in to keep muscle mass on my legs. So yes my legs are not atrophied too bad.
4. “It’s so nice to see you in public! You’re such an inspiration!”
This is nothing but discouraging. Are we supposed to be a recluse because we use a wheelchair? Am I inspiring for continuing life after an obstacle? Tell me I’m inspiring for all of the cool stuff I do (see ADAPT); not for pumping my gas!
5. ”Do you have a license to drive that thing?”
Or when you say, “You’re going to get a speeding ticket.” Also, if there are two wheelchair users together DO NOT ASK THEM IF THEY’RE RACING. How would you feel if you and your friend are walking together, minding your own business when someone yells, “ARE YOU GUYS RACING?!” It’s unnecessary and a bit obnoxious.
6. “Are you going to walk again? How much longer until you’re healed? Can you feel your legs?”
No two spinal cord injuries are the same, so no two wheelchair users are going to be the same. It gets old hearing about your old neighbor’s cousin up the road who worked really hard and now they walk. It’s actually discouraging. Just like many others I am completely content with my wheel life regardless of recovery.
7. “Can you still have sex?”
Have you ever heard the old saying “curiosity killed the cat”? Imagine if I asked you about your sex life. It wasn’t until I started using dating apps like Tinder and Bumble that this question came into my inbox. My reply, “The doctors sewed it up and called it a lost cause. I can’t feel it anyways.”
But yes, I can still have sex and still have children. I just choose not to, with you.
8. “What happened to your legs?”
Looks down. “They look fine to me?”
It was my spinal cord that was damaged not my legs.
9. “You’re so lucky you always have a seat!”
Lady Luck is on my side. Have you seen the parking? Or noticed my low need for new shoes?
10. “Have you tried to move your legs? You’re not trying hard enough to recover. Get up and walk already.”
Of course I’ve tried to move my legs. You telling me, “Get up and walk already,” is not speeding up the process. I may be recovering, but it doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time for nerves to reconnect. The only thing you’re doing is reminding us of the progress we aren’t making.