Since I started using my wheelchair a few years back the number one response I get from people is ‘Oh bless you’, ‘You poor thing’, ‘I’m so sorry’ etc.
Now I understand that there is a taboo around disability and that the public in general don’t know what to say. But for me personally having pity on me and my ‘situation’ is really demoralising and upsetting.
I’ve felt this way for a long time but haven’t been able to find a way of explaining why it affects me so negatively. But it came to me whilst scrolling through Facebook…
I came across a video of a beautiful dog that had lost the use of its back legs and the owner is told: you need to decide if the dog has a good quality of life or whether it should be put down. And the owner is distraught as the dog is so young and she doesn’t know what to do.
But then a friend of hers raises the money to get this dog its own wheelchair. And we are left with the owner in tears over her dogs new found independence and joy now it’s in the wheelchair.
Cute, adorable! And the comments and reactions are all positive, crying faces, thank goodness they didn’t put that dog to sleep! Every creature deserves a chance at life etc…
And whilst I wholeheartedly agree (I’m a sucker for that sort of video) it suddenly occurred to me...
Why be excited and relived for a dog but sad and pitiful for a human?
Why when I’m out in my chair am I pitied. When in reality for me my wheelchair is the same as it is for the dog, my independence and joy. I have freedom in my chair, it allows me to do things my body wouldn’t allow me to do! I love my chair and am so grateful that I can use it!
So from now on I tell people I want to be treated like a dog! (see not clickbait!)
My wheelchair is the tool to my freedom and I believe it is a tool to be celebrated!
My daughter sees no difference between her Mum and Dad, she holds both of our hands whilst on family walks, races us and asks to be picked up by both of us in equal measure, she doesn’t see the chair making Mummy any different to Daddy. And I think we could all learn a lot about acceptance from children.
My advice to those of you that find a stigma attached to a wheelchair, don’t focus on the chair, or think to yourself ‘oh goodness, I don’t know what I would do if I was in their shoes’ because I’m sure if you were in their shoes, you’d be grateful for any piece of equipment that allows you to be the best you can be!
So if you want to start a conversation with someone in a wheelchair, why not go for the tried and tested method us Brits have worked on for centuries? Talk about traffic, how long a queue is or the weather!