Wednesday, October 17, 2007

On the subject of being pushed around

In a wheelchair, that is.

Not this quad. No way. I have a cardinal rule about being pushed - it doesn't happen. That would be why there are no handles on the back of my wheelchair. It's a subtle clue.

I've had people ask about that. "How come you don't have push handles on your chair?"

"Because I don't want anyone to push me," I say.

Simple. Straightforward. No hidden meaning there. If other people want to be pushed I have no disagreement with that. I'm not trying to start an anti-pushing wheelchair campaign. I'm not trying to speak for all people with disabilities.

I was reading a piece today where it says that anyone who speaks as a disability activist or advocate is harming other individual people with disabilities because no one can speak on behalf of all people with disabilities because we are all so different.

I realize that the disability community is diverse. But that doesn't mean that speaking up on issues of common interest is wrong. After all, if that logical reasoning applied, that would discount the value of anyone with a disability ever speaking up. Or in any minority group, for that matter. It would work to keep members of the disability community afraid to say anything on issues affecting us, like health care or voting access or legislation.

Hmmm. That couldn't be what was intended there, could it?

Again, just my insight. I'm not putting it on anyone else. I want to be clear that if anyone else wants to have their chair pushed or disagrees with any of my views on this or any other topic on my blog, go right ahead. Makes no difference to me. But I advocate for equipment to make people as independent as possible, not to settle for being dependent. It reinforces old stereotypes and myths.

Although some may disagree with me, I'm sure I'm not the only one who doesn't like to be pushed around.


Hello I'm Greg said...

I agree with you that's why I have a power chair as a means to mobility.

The other thing I will not tolerate is people leaning on my chair, it's just my personal space and if I'm not sleeping with you back off.

betterolls said...

I don't like it when people try to shut up the disability community as a group either. They like to see us as patients who have "something wrong with us" not as people "who have something to say'.

Meredith said...

Ok,I'm having a flashback! For what it's worth, this reminds me of all the fighting we did, those of us who were feminist activists in the 1970s, around the issue of men holding doors open for us. The nerve of those patriarchal swine! As if *I* cannot open my own door! Or move heavy furniture from one end of my studio apartment to the other.

Years later I shifted my perspective. I decided that it was helpful to have doors opened, especially if I was hauling around a lot of stuff. I also decided to let *them* get the hernias when it came to schlepping furniture.

Maybe this "don't you dare diminish me by helping" thing is a predictable aspect in the evolution of a social movement? And yes, I'm AB. My offers to assist are never meant to diminish, only to make life easier.

Anonymous said...

I'm not disabled but I think there's something about having a choice in the matter that's crucial. If you can choose between things, then that's one thing. But when you're forced into something you don't want to do, that's another. That's true for all of us but I think people forget that it applies to people with disabilities too. Human nature.

TVS said...

Have you ever seen the movie _Muriel's Wedding_? One of the supporting characters, Rhonda, always an individualist, ends up using a wheelchair because of spinal cancer.

Because of betrayal by a friend (pretty pivotal to the plot, so I can't say more), she ends up back in the hometown she tried very hard to leave. She confronts her friend in an angry declaration. As she speaks, one of the town clique, comes up to her, grabs the back of the chair, and says, "Don't worry, we'll push you around," suiting her action to her words.

Absolutely chilling. And just perfect.

Anonymous said...

This says a lot about a lot of things. I agree that being pushed around is symbolic. We're supposed to settle for poor equipment and being made dependent. But then there are mixed signals given to us. We have to prove ourselves to show we're as good. I understand you taking a position like this. What in the world do people expect? You get to the point where you realize you got to do what's comfortable for you, not them.


Ruth said...

These are great comments, thanks. Greg - yup power chairs are the way to go - which is why I mention advocating for equipment for everyone. TVS_ I have seen Muriel's wedding and I loved that scene! She went through such a transformation - it was very cool. Al--your comments really struck me as pointing out the double bind that assumptions still cause regarding disability. Meredith-very interesting analysis. I think an individual's comfort level with accepting help varies and that includes what kinds of help, whether they have a disability or not.

This discussion raised more questions in my mind: The issues of autonomy that are involved and self determination are crucial here. Who is pushing? Where? Is that the only means of ambulation? Is there a less restrictive alternative? If not, what arrangements will be made to have someone available to push? How much will that cost versus other solutions?

The key here is mobility.Mobility should be a given, a right, and today it's not for many.