A few weeks ago I shared a post called 6 Acts of Kindness I'm Grateful For As A Disabled Person; in that I talked about a few lovely things that strangers had done for me that had really helped me out and made my day easier, brighter, better. At the end of that post, Caroline from Pots and Spoons left me a comment stating that she wished she'd found this post a few days previously as a lot of information that is put out into the world is about the stigma wheelchair users face. As much as that is true and very common, it's also terrifying for a new wheelchair user. Not only do they have to come to terms with using this new machine, but they also have to deal with how society perceives them.
Caroline's comment made me think about how I write about my wheelchair, and how I've shared my nightmare train journeys as a wheelchair user, and a lot of negative scenarios that I've encountered. As much as it's extremely important to fight and combat the mistreatment of disabled people, I never really thought about how all this would appear to a new wheelchair user.
So, I'm going to change that today. And I want to thank Caroline for inspiring this post.
If you don't follow me on Twitter (you should) you won't know how much I rave about and adore my wheelchair. You won't know I'm constantly praising it, that it's my favourite thing I own, that it's completely changed my life for the better. You won't know how it's given me my freedom and independence, you won't know that I no longer dread leaving the house for fear of being in agony, you won't know how much happier I am. It's totally not a cliche when people say it's life changing.
Now I don't know who is going to be reading this and how you've come to be a wheelchair user, and I don't know whether you're taking it on the chin or you're completely broken and think your life is over. But what I can tell you is it's just the beginning. It's not easy, it takes a lot of adapting and society can be a bitch, but if you can find your voice and realise that you're just as entitled to be somewhere as an abled person, it's half of the battle.
If you're like me and use a chair due to chronic pain, or even a part-time wheelchair user, don't feel like using your wheelchair is defeatist. You know your body, you know what's best for you. If you can't have good days out because of your condition and have to use a wheelchair, just think of all the memories you'll make. Juxtapose using your wheels and going out to live your life with staying in and being bored and alone. I know which one I'd choose.
And yes, you may come across arseholes, ableists, people that don't understand, but don't let their opinion get you down. Think of the freedom your chair is giving you and let that keep you in high spirits.
A few things that helped me when I started using a wheelchair three years ago are:
- My time is as important as everyone else's
- I have every right to be here
- People will say 'excuse me' if I'm in the way
- If strangers are looking, I'll never see them again, so who cares?
- My wheels equal your legs, there's no difference
- Not everyone will 'get' it, don't let them get to you
A completely random piece of advice I'd also like to give is, make your wheelchair your own. My powerchair is purple and covered in pink and white skull stickers, as well as a red Decepticon at the back (I tell my 4 year old nephew it turns into a robot at night). Not only is this showing off things I like/my personality but it's a great talking point. People are always commenting on how cool they are.
I really hope this post helps and is a few words of wisdom for new wheelchair users. If you want to chat more, drop me a comment or tweet.
For more wheelchair positivity, check out my blogging besties post; Beth from Mermaid in Disguise discusses how Using a Wheelchair is Not the End of the World.
Wheel your heart out.