When living the life of someone with a disability, you get a very unique perspective of the world and this perspective can only be shared by other people in your very same situation. If you use a wheelchair especially, there are several things that happen, some good, some funny and only someone else in a wheelchair can understand what it’s like.
These things are without question universal with all chair-users, so if you find yourself a wheelchair-user suddenly and want to know what you’re in for, the list below should definitely get you ready for what’s to come. Read on for 10 things only other wheelchair-users would understand.
1) Stares, stares, everywhere.
Who gets more stares than celebrities? That’s right, us awesome people in wheelchairs. Apparently, we’re just that great. People just can’t get over our differences sometimes, well most of the time it seems, so going out in public is always akin to feeling like an animal at the zoo. If you like the attention, great, but for most of us – we’d rather be incognito, a dream that’s impossible when you travel the world with a wheelchair strapped to your butt.
2) The thing you want is always on the top shelf.
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Imagine you’re at the store and you’re in a hurry and whatever you want is on the top shelf. This is the reality of many a wheelchair-user; Murphy’s Law in action. And yes, it can be incredibly infuriating having to be slowed down because of your disability. Of course you can find an employee to help you, but it seems when you need them most, they’re never around. Yes, this is the life of a wheelchair-user.
3) The path to the elevators is always the longest.
Another thing that drives us mad when we’re in a hurry is finding the elevator and when we finally do, it’s so far away we’re ready to eat a steak by the time we get there. So often it feels like God is trying to slow us down on purpose, but what’s really happening is just lazy design by architects. Yes, when you’re in a hurry and in need of an elevator asap, but can’t find one, this is the life of the wheelchair-user.
4) How much time we waste going up ramps.
Going the long way can be fun on Sunday drives, but when you use a wheelchair, it seems you always have to go the long way, especially when it comes to wheelchair ramps. If you push yourself, you know just how annoying getting up these things can be. While it’s great if a building has one, we definitely waste several hours of our lives going up ramps every time we want to enter a building.
Our time could definitely be better spent on other things, but that’s the condition of living with a disability — a lot of time is wasted on a lot of “simple” things.
5) Telling your injury story. Again.
Everybody wants to know and the last thing you want to be is rude, but we are asked routinely about the most personal aspect of our lives — what is our disability and how did it happen? And oftentimes by complete strangers. Being disrespected like this is common when you use a wheelchair. So many able-bodied people will sadly never see us as equals, so they think just asking us is no big deal.
6) “Do I sound weird when I say ‘I’m going for a walk?'”
This is a silly one, but whenever I say, “I’m going for a walk,” I always feel like I’m lying or just sound stupid and then change my verbage to, “Going for a stroll,” or something that doesn’t contain the word “walking,” because we all know I haven’t walked in the last two decades. Perhaps I’m being a little bit paranoid, but I know other people who use wheelchairs can relate.
7) Always being asked if you need help whenever you leave the house.
I don’t care if you’re using your cell phone or just sitting there waiting for a cab, but people always think we’re in crisis mode or need help if they see us alone. It can be quite disconcerting when a stranger comes out of nowhere asking if you need help when, umm, just sitting in line thinking about Lady Gaga. Yes, it’s kinda weird.
8) Old people hogging handicapped parking spaces.
Whenever you really need that handicapped parking spot, it always seems it’s occupied and I hate to say it, it’s usually taken by an old person. This wouldn’t be a problem, but they always take the van spots, leaving folks like me in a rut. And if you ever go to Wal-Mart, you may have especially noticed how bad the situation is there. I don’t think I’ve been able to get a handicapped parking spot a Wal-Mart in the last two years.
9) Don’t even think about a group concert outing.
Another thing people in wheelchairs can relate to is accessible seating at concert venues with assigned seating, which is usually the pits. You’re limited to one or two guests usually, so don’t even think about putting a group together for a Broadway show or a concert if you’re not ok with being separated from the group.
10) Being the un-intentional party-skipper/hermit
We also know exactly what it’s like to be left out of the social scene because of inaccessible private homes; so many parties we’ve missed out on simply because a ramp wasn’t present. Over the years I’ve unfortunately become known as the last minute party-canceller, but that’s only because I hate being a burden and getting lifted up stairs, especially at the end by drunk people. I’m actually a very social person but my disability forces me to be otherwise.
Make no mistake – the wheelchair life is only for the tough and seasoned, and a sense of humor is a must. We have to go through a lot of ridiculous things on an near-daily basis, but if we can find someone to relate to even for a moment, it can make all of our anger go in stasis.
What things do you go through that only other people who use wheelchairs would understand?