There’s just something about being in a wheelchair and the crazy power it brings. It really is something.
There’s the freebies (the free embroidered $80.00 jeans I have from the Express, randomly purchased by old man who was in line in front of me ranks as one of the most memorable). And you get to cut ahead in lines pretty much all the time. Oh and let’s face it, you can get away with being real lazy. “Oh it must be so hard to be in a wheelchair.” Yes, now pass the cheesy puffs.
All jokes aside, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows. The way a wheelchair can alter how someone views you – in a mere instant mind you – ranks as one of the ultimate injustices of the human experience. The evolutionary part of the human brain still (despite it being 2013) has a searingly difficult time overlooking disability (ie., not freaking out when they have to be around us).
Like skin color, our eyes see something that’s different, our wheelchair or any other mobility device, and unfortunately we can’t help but freak the you-know-what out, or be incredibly fake. They don’t see us on an equal plane, and it’s all about being uncomfortable. The wheelchair simply makes people really uncomfortable. Humans need to get used to something first in order to be comfortable around it, and unfortunately 98% of the population has never had firsthand experience with someone in a wheelchair. Heck, my first time knowing someone in a wheelchair was myself. This makes it hard to get angry at these folks.
But the experience of being judged completely based on your wheelchair isn’t something you could ever understand unless you’ve experienced it first-hand. It’s discrimination, but we all know this has been something that’s been happening since the beginning of the human race.
The wheelchair factor never gets old however and it never ceases to amaze me how powerful it can be in social interactions. It can change people’s minds in an instant when you’re on a dating site. Mention you’re in a wheelchair, and about 80% of the people will click to the next profile. Or if you’re on the phone with a receptionist and you mention you’re in a wheelchair, 10-1 she’ll be nicer to you and give you better service.
While the latter is because of sympathy, people aren’t bypassing your dating profile because they feel bad for you. They don’t think they could ever like someone in a wheelchair, and that’s my friends is pure unadulterated ignorance. The wheelchair factor is very much also about not knowing anything about us, and even worse, not caring. But maybe this blog post will change a few minds. Maybe.
Wheelchairs can part a sea of people, they can elicit sob stories from complete strangers (don’t I know it) and the symbolism they carry is more powerful than that mind eraser tool from Men In Black. One look at us, you see the wheelchair and you’ll never look at us the same. That’s just how it is. But don’t let the wheelchair factor get you down too much. Acknowledge it, don’t forget it, even laugh that it, but never let it ruin your day.
What frustrates you the most about the wheelchair factor?