Sometimes you will see a movie or a television program where someone in a wheelchair is helped, given courtesy or recognized for the courage it takes to live life needing the aid of a wheelchair. However I can honestly say that, based on my own experiences, this is extremely rare and has never actually happened to me. Ever.
My personal experience of being in a wheelchair is that, at best I become mostly invisible and at worst, people have been completely rude.
Unlike mothers with prams, people will not attempt to give way or courtesy as I wheel around in public spaces. I have rarely experienced someone holding a door for us or handing me a hard to reach item.
Oh, and don’t get me started on car parking for wheelchair users. I have rarely gone anywhere where there is an available parking bay. Rarely.
I have been bumped, pushed, almost tipped out of the chair, starred at and sworn at by passers by.
Unlike mothers with prams, people will avoid eye contact with me and won’t hold doors or offer any polite little niceties.
Whilst shopping with my husband, shop attendants have avoided speaking to me and have even asked my husband questions that are meant for me; as though I was completely invisible or unable to speak.
People have walked away as I have struggled to reach for a shelf or struggled to use a disabled ramp. I have been close to tears on many occasions; and that is something that is quite hard to share.
It is not a comfy way to travel or remotely convenient, despite what people may think, in fact, it can be quite painful when dealing with spasms, tremor and terrible pain in my hands and arms joints.
They are also not terribly convenient to lug around and many cars and public transport still are unable to accommodate them.
They are impossible to move across grass, carpet and stairs and how do you push a shopping trolley AND a wheelchair? The short answer is you don’t.
Being in a wheelchair is not at all convenient or easy. And it takes a long time for you to accept that this is your life now. Well I should say it has taken me a long time to accept. But it is my only means at accessing the outside world and the people out there.
I would dearly prefer not to be in a wheelchair, but more than this I would appreciate a little understanding and basic courtesy in the meantime. I think most wheelchair users would agree.