People should, of course, have a choice to use a wheelchair or not. But it seems to me that sometimes people choose not to use a wheelchair out of fear a of ‘looking more disabled’ rather than conserving their energy. For some reason, there is a stigma around using a wheelchair; they almost see it as a sign of giving up.
What does that say about the rest of us who choose to use a wheelchair? Have we surrendered? It’s about saving your energy, convenience and certainly speed.
I find using a wheelchair convenient. I can go for miles and I have full use of my hands when not propelling myself. After hours of shopping, my wife is tired and ready to sit down or go home. ‘I can keep going for hours’ I say. I can hang bags off the back and I’ve modified it so that I can even put a carry-on bag on the front. Sure, I have a prosthesis but I would still need to hold crutches to walk, so my hands wouldn’t be free to use; so it has no advantage other than being stood upright and looking like I have all four limbs.
Some people still think along the lines of ‘You’re broken and you need fixing and you need to look normal’. That’s OK if that’s what you want. But what if it’s more difficult to walk with a prosthesis or a walking aid? What if it’s slower or takes more energy? What if you’re at risk of falling or you have to sit down frequently? Maybe it’s about accessibility and the worry that places will not be free from barriers…
When my mum was alive, she was undergoing dialysis and had her hip replaced. She would rather go out and strain herself for hours and have to take multiple rest breaks, than use a wheelchair. Some amputees for example, want to walk at any cost, even if their stump is swollen and sore. When traveling abroad I would see people having difficulty walking and looking tired and would think to myself: ‘If they only had a wheelchair, they would get around much quicker and easier’.
I have not given up, just because I use a wheelchair.
About Ruben Carol
Ruben is a disability access and inclusion specialist, trainer and facilitator and has had the pleasure of training organisations, including TfL and Uber.
He’s also an actor, VO artist, and public speaker. Appearances include Good Omens, His Dark Materials and Doctors.
You can find him on Facebook and Instagram @Ruben.Carol.Actor