one of the more common assumptions about wheelchairs is that they are entrapping. You will often hear it said, “you must long to escape that chair?” Or, alternatively, a well-meaning person might make the observation, “every able-bodied person should spend a day in a wheelchair to know what it’s like to live with disability.”
In fact, the wheelchair is a liberating device – and far from entrapping me, gives me freedom. yesterday, on my way home from work, my wheelchair broke down halfway up the hill. I was trapped, and my poor son Lachlan had to push me home – all 260 kg of chair and body (champion). at least I’d made it home, but the next day (today as I write) I needed to make an important meeting at midday in the city. so, at 8 AM I called wheelchair service to arrange a fix. I was fortunate that a repair man was available, and he came to fix the chair. By 10 o’clock, he’d finished and left and I was up and ready for my meeting – only to discover as I was heading out the door that the error had repeated, and I was going nowhere. So back to bed, meeting missed. And here I wait for who knows how long?
My point is, that the chair is my liberation. It does give me some complications. I can’t transfer, so I’m stuck in it.I can’t get in to a normal car, and there are some buildings with steps that are inaccessible – personal homes are the worse – with more than 80% disability unfriendly. but aside from minor inconveniences, I love my chair. Think of the following:
1. Speed – I can get around at 10 km an hour, which makes you lot with legs seem slow. on a pavement, I can be downright dangerous to people who walk with their heads in their phone.
2. Carry – I might not have much arm strength, but my chair makes a handy (pun intended) trolley. I’m brilliant with grocery bags, and make light work of a picnic.
3. Seating – I never have a problem finding a seat. Last on to a packed train – no problems.
4. sleeping – my chair tilts back almost 90°. That means I have a bed with me wherever I go. I’m notorious for falling asleep on the train, having to be woken up by the guard when I arrive at my destination. other passengers are downright jealous (especially retirees and mothers of young children).
5. barging – I never have problems making my way through a crowd. My chair has a steel foot plates and acts like a snowplough when people are in the way.
6. Entertaining – my nephews and nieces love sitting on my lap and going for a ride. They grow out of it of course, but the young ones think it’s brilliant. When a ride is on the offer, I’m the favourite uncle.
If you want to know what it’s like being disabled, spend a day in my bed, and get hoisted and showered by my carers, and tie your legs together halfway up a hill. but don’t spend a day in my chair, because I need it.