My memoir, Husbands Should Not Break, is imminent – the editing and typesetting is now complete, and I’m working with the publisher on the cover. I’m happy with the way that it looks, except for one thing. The draft includes an image of an empty wheelchair that is typical of what people normally imagine wheelchairs look like.
The reality, though, is that a person with a spinal cord injury wouldn’t use a chair like this (at least in wealthier nations) – a rickety, ugly, boxy chair without any of the accoutrements that are necessary to enable a person without trunk control to balance and avoid pressure marks. This is to say nothing of the fact that most quadriplegics need electric chairs. My brand of wheelchair is pictured here:
The difference between the two chairs is as between a pushbike and Porsche, but my dislike of the typical image of the wheelchair is that it feeds into the general impression that to have a spinal cord injury is to be “trapped in a chair.” The endless social media circulation of videos showing paraplegics and quadriplegics using clunky walking machines is evidence of the same idea; the assumption that what is really terrible about spinal cord injury is the fact that it prevents us from walking.
But I don’t hate my wheelchair. Actually, I love my wheelchair. It’s what liberates me from the constraints of my body. If I was required to marry an inanimate object (you never know, this might be one of the consequences of proposed changes to marriage laws), it would be to my wheelchair. “Do you, Shane, take this wheelchair to be your lawfully wedded partner?” Well, yes, but only till the next model comes along!