Before you approach a wheelchair user think about how you would feel if you were on the receiving end of what is coming out of your mouth. Here are 10 of the most common things I’ve heard since being a wheelchair user.

1. ”Oh it must suck being in a wheelchair. I couldn’t do it.”

Do you think I am in a wheelchair by choice? Take that negativity somewhere else. There is a positive in every negative. If I looked at wheel life with your attitude I would be miserable. With that said it must suck not having a seat everywhere you go.

2. ”You’re too pretty to be in a chair.”

Disability doesn’t discriminate. At any moment in time disability can affect you changing your life forever. Just because you’re smart, funny, pretty, etc does not mean you can avoid an accident caused by someone else.  

3. What do you need the wheelchair for? You don’t look paralyzed your legs are thick.”

Uh, Thanks? 

But really I use Wearable Therapy by Axiobionics. It’s electric stimulation shorts I sleep in to keep muscle mass on my legs. So yes my legs are not atrophied too bad.

4. It’s so nice to see you in public! You’re such an inspiration!”

This is nothing but discouraging. Are we supposed to be a recluse because we use a wheelchair? Am I inspiring for continuing life after an obstacle? Tell me I’m inspiring for all of the cool stuff I do (see ADAPT); not for pumping my gas! 

5. ”Do you have a license to drive that thing?”

Or when you say, “You’re going to get a speeding ticket.” Also, if there are two wheelchair users together DO NOT ASK THEM IF THEY’RE RACING. How would you feel if you and your friend are walking together, minding your own business when someone yells, “ARE YOU GUYS RACING?!” It’s unnecessary and a bit obnoxious. 

6. “Are you going to walk again? How much longer until you’re healed? Can you feel your legs?”

No two spinal cord injuries are the same, so no two wheelchair users are going to be the same. It gets old hearing about your old neighbor’s cousin up the road who worked really hard and now they walk. It’s actually discouraging. Just like many others I am completely content with my wheel life regardless of recovery.

7. “Can you still have sex?”

Have you ever heard the old saying “curiosity killed the cat”? Imagine if I asked you about your sex life. It wasn’t until I started using dating apps like Tinder and Bumble that this question came into my inbox. My reply, “The doctors sewed it up and called it a lost cause. I can’t feel it anyways.” 

But yes, I can still have sex and still have children. I just choose not to, with you.

8. “What happened to your legs?”

Looks down. “They look fine to me?” 

It was my spinal cord that was damaged not my legs.

9. “You’re so lucky you always have a seat!”

Lady Luck is on my side. Have you seen the parking? Or noticed my low need for new shoes?

10. “Have you tried to move your legs? You’re not trying hard enough to recover. Get up and walk already.”

Of course I’ve tried to move my legs. You telling me, “Get up and walk already,” is not speeding up the process. I may be recovering, but it doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time for nerves to reconnect. The only thing you’re doing is reminding us of the progress we aren’t making.

15 comments

  1. I am not in a wheelchair. I was never good at sport. I could never get a kick in little league football. I would loose every running race I was in. On the 8th April 2018 I did a 205 Km bike ride up and down hills in less than 8and a half hours. I want to inspire others to do the same.

  2. AGAIN……You are AMAZING ……AND You AMAZE me….THIS is what us, the public, that really Don’t Know….we need answers that educate us about your REAL way of life!! We really DON’T know and MANY times make fools of ourselves!! Continue educating us…..NO Bullshit…. but a straight up answer from You ! You ARE a very SPECIAL person and I only wish the best for you! Continue to stay POSITIVE and keep us informed!!

  3. To #5 My answer is Yes, do you have a licence to open that mouth without thinking? Some of them like #10 would just want me to smack them in the mouth. I could see part of #6 being a reasonable question if it was asked appropriately in the right context – as you say not everyone in a wheelchair is the same and not all are SCI (ie mine is spina bifida and I can feel most of my legs). I get #8 coz my legs are messed upbut some of them like #1 I just dont know how Id answer because they are so stupid. I guess Ive been lucky that I havent had many of these fired at me (or maybe Im too thick skinned from birth to notice haha.

  4. I been in a wheelchair all my life and had to put up with people thinking I’m dumb. They would actually ask the person I’m with Things about me like was wasn’t even there. Or I would roll in a fast food place and they would totally ignore me.

  5. Some of these are astounding (like the sex one and the last one in particular – just, wow). But the drivers license one never bothered me, and I get it often enough. Usually from older folks. I think it’s people’s way of being friendly and trying to connect, and I’m usually just friendly in return and enjoy the happy exchange.

    The thing is, so many people are lacking in direct experience in dealing with people in wheelchairs or with disabilities; sometimes that ignorance is more obvious than others. I can choose to be offended by that ignorance, or I can choose to be an ambassador and educate. I try to judge the heart / the intent rather than the behavior. That’s for my sake rather than anything else. If I got pissed every time someone was openly curious about why a relatively young woman is in a wheelchair, goodness I’d be cranky…

  6. Things I hear from coworkers on a regular basis: Wow you drive yourself – um ya, do you? Lets race or race you up the stairs – raised eyebrows, nod head, sure. My personal favorite, You look normal why are you in a chair? – gee thanks? Lol

    Thank you for being such an awesome woman and speaking the truth.

    1. My favorite is the “you look normal, why are you i a chair.” hahah I can totally do without numerous “wanna race” comments too. Thank you for your support!

  7. I think people need to toughen up a bit or a lot actually. Who care what others say? They don’t know any better and if it makes you want to stay home then maybe you should. The world isn’t going to coddle you, you need to be tough to live. Yes it’s not the best situation but there’s a lot worse. Stop complaining and get out and live life.

  8. I am not in a wheelchair. Thank you for posting this. It gives so much insight for all those opinionated-and-nosey ninjas out there. I cannot believe the question’s people ask! Such nerve. I mean seriously, your sex life! People really need to think before they speak. I am an African person living in a predominantly white country so I get stared at everywhere I go (shops, train, parks), I concluded its more out of curiousity than anything so I’ve learnt to ignore it even though I find it kinda rude especially when the nudge the person next to them to also stare. I was wondering if you get your fare share of people staring @ you for longer than a few seconds?? (Hope that’s OK to ask)

    1. Chantelle, thank you for sharing a small piece of your story! People are always staring. I always give them a massive smile in return. 😀

  9. I get most of them. But i was wondering where I can get that bubonic thingy for my muscles to.stop losing.mass. I am a t10complete sci not.even a year and my legs are so thin. Also they discovered I have four bulging.discs and spinal stenosis so im in constant pain and ppl just assume I’m lazy bc I can’t even handle being in my chair for long.

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