Wheelchair Attitudes

This blog is focusing on part time wheelchair users. A topic which can be ignored. 
For those of you who don't know, I'm a part time wheelchair user. I may not be too happy over this fact, it's not really something to dancing about, but yes, I am a part time wheelchair user. Do you get the message? People can be in a wheelchair part time- meaning that they can walk, maybe just not as far as you or for as long as you. Socially people can often find this hard to accept and due to recent experiences, people really do need a hand in breaking these social stereotypes. I firmly believe that stereotyping have led to a stigma surrounding wheelchairs which I have experienced (and are affected by in my own opinion and the social conventions of others). Down to things deteriorating I've only had the big bit of metal (wheelchair) AKA- Walter (yes I have given it a name!) for about a year, So you could say I'm still classed as a newbie- who is trying to act like a pro.

I have never actually been 'taught' how to use a wheelchair (if that is possible); they just presumed I knew, because how hard can it be, right? I know it's not classed as the classic rocket science but it can take some getting used to (especially if it's something you don't want to get used to). Due to me striving to ultimate goal of independence this was just another hurdle I had to get over on my own. I still wouldn't class myself as an expert user, more learning as I go. I'm always figuring out new ways to make things easier and little 'tricks' to insure I get safety from one place to another (which at the end of the day is the main goal). However I suppose I adopt that to everything I do, coming up with my own unique ways of doing the tasks which I wish to accomplish. It may not be how you do something, but it's just what works for me when faced with slight limitations.

I remember the first time I used my chair. A maths lesson. No big deal right? I was just going roll in there like it was the most normal thing in the world, even though I felt like it was the complete opposite. I knew I was bound to get the odd stare/ glare of confusion, nothing new about that. Some people can jump to conclusions, presuming the worst or doubting my capabilities. Often leading to them making the judgment that I shouldn't be using one, as much as I want this to be true it can be very annoying. More often then not 
they do not know my situation yet feel adequate to pass unneeded judgment. Anyway, the maths lesson. To start with a teaching assistant forgot to get me from break (putting me off the whole idea to start with!) which meant I was late for the lesson, (just in case I wasn't making a big enough entrance). When I got to maths it turned out my chair was too wide to get to my seat (great!) and the teaching assistant had just left me at the door because they had a lesson with someone else (double great!). To cut a long story short, I got to my seat in one piece, managed to crash into my table when reversing (its a lot harder then it looks people!!!), got plenty of stares, all while the classroom was dead silent with the odd whisper; bet you can tell I felt great after that one.

That lesson no one asked me questions as to why, in a way that was nice but I also didn't want them to jump to conclusions. It was after that lesson ended when it all started. What's wrong with your legs?, thought it was only one of your legs, can you no longer walk?, if you can walk then you don't need one! Granted this was not everyone, I wouldn't even say it was most people. However it was there and in a way it's not even their fault, just a lack of understanding and education on the topic. Here I am- hopefully bringing the education, because it wasn't the questions that bothered me, more the way I could tell they thought I was making the whole thing up as I went along. After the weeks when by of me using the wheelchair when ever I saw fit it became slightly more 'normal', it was no longer a shock to people. Also in the end my friends were able to push me around rather then the very busy, but unreliable teaching assistants. This did make things a lot easier, easier to get around school but also easier to accept and get used to.

During the past year there has been numerous times when the last thing I've wanted to do is use the wheelchair, and I suppose they were probably the times when it would have been a pretty good idea to do so. Thinking about it they are the times when I often want to prove things to myself. However I have an amazing group of friends who have been there every step (roll) of the way. They have definitely made it easier for me to come to terms with because they have always been willing (or fighting) to push me and encouraging me to use it when needed. Also helping me come up with ways to make it easier to use the chair, even if that means running over a few feet in the process (very sorry!), or learning that a wheelchair doesn't just go up a curb!

~ Chloe

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