I've heard the words "road rage" over and over again, but rarely have heard anyone refer to wheelchair rage. Yet I see things happen that warrant using the term, anything from people expecting wheelchair users to always defer to walkers and then overreacting when they don't, to incidents where folks bully or even assault those in wheelchairs, possibly causing injury.
This is not to imply, by the way, that all people in wheelchairs require coddling nor is it a suggestion that wheelchair users should go first. But there's a difference between expecting a wheelchair user to wait to be the last one to leave a theater when it's emptying and reasonably accommodating him or her in the flow of traffic. Due to the often segregated treatment of people with disabilities and "special" accommodations (that may not be so "special"), our society still is trying to understand what it looks like to include people with disabilities in the crowd.
Much like road rage, wheelchair rage occurs when someone decides he or she wants to be first or someone else does something that annoys him/her or gets in their way. Due to the common misperception that wheelchairs will slow others down (when actually wheelchairs go faster), wheelchair rage can happen upon the mere sight of a wheelchair. Unfortunately, this can lead to overreactions that create problems and situations.
Some people just have to say something, for example. It can range from verbal wheelchair rage by saying things like "Your wheelchair is in the way" to an endearing remark like "It would be best if you waited until everyone else passes". I've learned over the years that a sense of humor works best, especially in a crowd. Ignoring such remarks also works. I've learned not to get into debates about my civil right to move about like the rest of the world. It's similar to dealing with someone who commits road rage. He or she has decided that wheelchairs are a problem and do not fit his or her agenda, and sees nothing wrong with breaking laws, i.e. like passing illegally and unsafely on the wrong side.
I've also seen people commit physical acts of wheelchair rage in crowds by going into line in front of me, stepping over my footrests and blocking me and holding up their arms to try to prevent me from moving forward. Sometimes, just as with road rage, there isn't much one can do for safety reasons. And since it's often not seen as wheelchair rage, the person doing it is sometimes hailed as a self appointed traffic cop, even the "go to guy" who keeps things from getting out of hand.
Some people just don't believe there is a way for wheelchair users and those on foot to move equally about this world because they have never seen it. Things are changing. The more mobile wheelchair users get, the more places we appear, the more we are able to get out and show up, the more chances people will have to see how smoothly we can all exit together, share aisles in stores, and sit in the same restaurants without much of a fuss.
And then maybe we'll see fewer instances of wheelchair rage. Of course, considering that road rage is out there, it won't disappear. There will always be people who have to be first and will risk anything to do that. But a few less times hearing that I'm in the way would be appreciated.