Wheelchair: Aid or Embarrassment?


I began using a wheelchair in 2017 as a way of managing the many symptoms I experience with my chronic illnesses. It is a god send on days where I physically cant walk for more than a few minutes, or when I'm mentally exhausted and unable to cope with mobilising myself. However, I have and continue to struggle with using the wheelchair, I often feel like a fraud, or an embarrassment to my family and friends when using it.

The trouble with using a wheelchair is the stigma that comes with it. Using a wheelchair in a public place involves experiencing a plethora of reactions from those around you, some of the reactions I have experienced personally include:

  • Staring

  • Obvious whispering about me

  • Avoiding looking at me

  • Avoiding me completely

  • Inappropriate questions

  • Questioning why I use a wheelchair

  • Talking to my carer instead of me

  • Assumptions regarding why i use a wheelchair: broken leg etc.

  • Rude remarks when walking after using the wheelchair

These are just a few of the reactions I have experienced, there are hundred more that wheelchair users come into contact with every day. With reactions like these it is logical that a wheelchair user like me would feel embarrassed when using it. It took a few years for me to get used to the above reactions, the issues with accessibility, and the reduced independence when using a wheelchair, however it has been an aid overall despite plenty of embarrassing, awkward moments. I think the key thing to take from this is to change your behaviour when you see someone in a wheelchair. Instead of reacting as above, try:

  • Asking questions in a careful, considerate way

  • Check with the user that they feel up to answering questions at that time

  • Ask if they need help

  • Talk to the user as well as their carer!

  • Avoid assuming why someone may use a wheelchair

  • Do not question how they use their wheelchair

  • Treat them as you would wish to be treated should it be you in that wheelchair

I have plenty of stories both sad and funny regarding wheelchair experience, some of which I

will be posting about sometime in the future. What are your wheelie stories, anything awkward or embarrassing? Perhaps you have a funny anecdote regarding your wheelie experience? Let us know in the comments below!



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