Pets with Disabilities

Animals and wheelchairs: Cute-ifying disability

The way humans perceive disability is….confusing. In the real world, able-bodied people never think of people with disabilities as cute. Sometimes, sure, the news will profile us as a puff piece, but generally speaking, people with disabilities are never considered “cute.” So, what’s with the onslaught of viral love for disabled animals lately?

Call it a trend, or maybe a new revelation, but the masses have discovered (thanks to viral videos) that they absolutely love animals in wheelchairs. It started with cats and dogs in wheelchairs, and now even goldfish and baby pigs, like Chris P. Bacon from Florida, are getting in on the action. Animals in wheelchairs have become almost as popular as that stupid Gangam dance. They’ve fallen into the “OMG” news category (along with the latest royal they’ve unearthed in a British parking lot). And I must say, for disability to become cute is weird.

But it’s not completely a bad thing. Let’s start with the good stuff that comes from animal in wheelchair videos being consider cute. #1: It spreads awareness of kindness to animals in need, that even they deserve some kind of mobility enhancement (of course they do). I’m always surprised how fast animals pick up using modified wheelchairs. And #2: Even I’ll admit it’s fascinating watching these animals using said wheelchairs. It shows animals can be smarter than we think.

While I’m sure my being disabled is the main reason I’m feeling more unnerved about this than the average Joe, but does anyone else feel this way? Or am I being too sensitive? I must admit, these videos’ popularity does say something about us when, by the millions, we click and share these videos. It shows we have a heart, that we’re not all evil.

But wouldn’t it be great if videos of people with disabilities got just as many clicks, and became just as viral as disabled animals videos? Ah silly humans. We love being entertained. But think of all the minds that could be changed if we were able to make this happen.

I guess that leaves it up to us to start creating better wheelchair videos (like the wheelchair bungee girl), so we too can get internet famous. Maybe we’ll never be considered as cute as a kitten running around in a wheelchair, but hey, if our issues got as much attention as a wiener dog doing laps in a wheelchair, the people we could reach would be transformative.

What are your feelings about animal in wheelchair videos going viral?

Photo courtesy of handicappedpets

6 replies
  1. Bob Vogel
    Bob Vogel says:

    Cute-ifying disability–Tiff you nailed it. The anthropomorpization of animals is a very U.S. thing. In some cases putting wheels on an animal may make some sense, but in so many cases it is downright cruel, as in a dog that gets it’s back half paralyzed and is “forced” to stay alive to the “delight” of humans.
    “Oh look how happy he is.”

  2. Lisbet
    Lisbet says:

    You are right. There is no good coming from these animals in wheelchairs. We need not cuteness we need rights for people with disabilitys!

  3. Sara
    Sara says:

    Almost on cue, Reddit is blowing up right now re: sea turtle with prosthetic fins.

    I’m weirded out by the novelty of people seeking out these pets just so they can have a disabled pet, more than the cuteness factor. Full disclosure: I say “awwwww” to most pictures of animals. And that piglet had a K’nex wheelchair, which flexes my nerd adorkable rating as well.

  4. Nancy
    Nancy says:

    Hmmmm. Let’s take a step back for a second and take a deep breath. I work with children. Children identify with cartoons and animals. A lot. Children have told me how Winter the dolfin has a fake tail, and relate it to their leg brace. Or how they saw a dog in a wheelchair and they identified with it since they are in a wheelchair. Children with disabilities often ask for dolls that look like they look. I do not people that people view the disability as cute. I think people are warmed that someone wanted to help the pet with a disability out. They marvel at the technology. I guess it all depends on the way in which it is portrayed. And the intent of the movie or picture? But I do not view it as all bad or weird. I can still recall the day my little daughter superglued a little stick on the end of a walking stick bug she found…..because it had lost it’s leg. Was it a little weird? Sure. But her heart was in the right place. And I found it fascinatingly weird. And today she is a surgical nurse :)

  5. Nancy
    Nancy says:

    I also find it very empowering to see graceful ballroom dancing, hula hooping, navigating the beach by a person in a wheelchair. I enjoy the creativity and fun of seeing the Halloween costumes the children and their parents come up with
    when including the wheelchair in the costume. I see things on facebook all the time that are inspiring! I don’t think I have run across anything that I felt was in poor taste. I challenge you to collect some pinterest or facebook photos that inspire you. And then share them :)

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