Saturday, May 29, 2010

Wheelchairs are Liberating

"Confined to a wheelchair"

"Wheelchair bound"

How often do we hear these phrases or read them in newspaper articles?

Unfortunately, pretty often. But many wheelchair users don't feel that way. Gary Karp talks in this video about how he is liberated by his wheelchair.

I have spent time confined since I acquired my disability. There was the waiting period for a variance to get a ramp when my wheelchair couldn't get up and down the steps. That was being confined. There was the time before I was able to get my power chair and I couldn't push a manual chair, so I stayed in a recliner. That was being confined.

But I've never been confined by my wheelchair.

The word bound brings to mind action. I'm bound and determined to get things done, to go places to get inside places that present challenges or obstacles. But I'm not bound to a wheelchair. I'm in and out of it. It's not attached anywhere. It's a piece of equipment, a tool to achieve mobility. And yet it's seen so differently by some people.

I know my wheelchair is sometimes seen first, before I am. I can't control how people perceive me in my wheelchair or the assumptions they make. I can, however, hit the joystick and go full speed down empty sidewalks with my hair blowing in the wind.I can use my wheelchair to work, to play in the leaves, to travel, to shop, to visit friends, to eat out, to get where I need to go. Does that sound confining?

Wheelchair users find our own words to link to wheelchairs, which dispel those images that trap us in. Think of your wheelchair as a toy, says Aaron Fotheringham, as he does back flips in his. Some will think of a wheelchair as a gift, if they've been home bound.

I sometimes think of my wheelchair as a place for my cat to nap. Cats have good taste. The cushions are comfy.

The possibilities are unlimited.


FridaWrites said...

To me, it's freedom. The barriers don't come from the chair.

FridaWrites said...

Also, I was talking to my primary care doctor about my scooter (and discussing awaiting my powerchair). She is from India and we talked about what a blessing it is to be able to have one and to have enough infrastructure to be able to go places. Not everywhere, but she and I both see this as a blessing to be able to use and have access to these devices.

Wheelchair Dancer said...

So necessary to hear and see this.

Hope others do, too.


Disability Books said...

Cats also love to sit atop ventilators! Humans have a lot to learn.

Edward said...

Is there a more complete version of that talk available anywhere? I'd love to hear what he said to the person who presumed to push him across the street :P

Ruth said...


I looked around and haven't been able to find one. Will leave a link here if I do :)

Suzy said...

Sis, read this entry when you posted it and haven't gotten it out of my mind yet. I watched a movie last night and kept thinking of it over and over. A child had gotten her "power" chair (sorry, didn't know what to call it) and she started going all over the town, getting into all the gossip going on! (it took place in Ireland...beautiful).