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Wheelchair freedom

March 1 was World Wheelchair Day. I am writing this as an ode to the many people I admire who are wheelchair users. If this is outside your zone of experience, I encourage you to follow people who use wheelchairs. I have included some accounts below. Disability isn’t a tragedy. Disability is part of the human experience. Please listen to disabled people.*

Specifically, I hope to spark a conversation about ableism and how it negatively impacts all disabled people. And there’s a double-edged sword for the many ambulatory wheelchair users. An ambulatory wheelchair user can stand and walk and also uses a wheelchair. They are perpetually caught in the crosshairs of “I hope you walk again” and “Are you faking it?”

We make people’s lives more difficult by centering walking. Depending on someone’s circumstances, walking can be more tiring, more dangerous, and even less fun. The hideous term “wheelchair-bound” reflects society’s extreme fear of this particular mobility aid–that it’s a trap, a cage, a jail. But nothing could be further from the truth.

A wheelchair is a mobility aid and people use it to varying degrees. It’s a gut punch that so many ambulatory wheelchair users resisted the wheelchair and felt shame in using it. We need to support people on their journeys and we need to ensure that spaces and places are wheelchair-friendly.

If you don’t follow disabled people online, you are missing out. Here are some of my favorite accounts to follow.

* Like many well-meaning but uninformed people I got caught up in person-first construction when it comes to disability, i.e., “a person with a disability.” I have yet to interact with a disabled person who prefers this. Most call themselves disabled. There’s nothing shameful about being disabled. I always strive to use someone’s preferred words/labels.

Photo by Moses Malik Roldan on Unsplash