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Upon finally getting my own wheelchair, I have been faced with ableism not only internalized from myself for not feeling disabled enough for a wheelchair, but also by some of those around me who also feel this way.
When stories like “Me Before You” are becoming wildly popular where a man in a wheelchair decides his life isn’t worth living now that he is disabled and decides to kill himself instead, it makes it hard when the world paints disabled people as helpless and a burden. But my wheelchair and my cane are anything but, and for many others their mobility devices are their key to freedom and definitely not a death sentence.
When my friends are going out and having fun, I have to choose between staying home and not being in pain or going out and being in pain all night for it. I should not have to suffer to enjoy my time, and that is what mobility aids are for. With a wheelchair I can go to the zoo, I can go to aquariums, I could roll around the mall for hours with my friends. But the cost for that is great, being met with stares, uninvited questions, my brother telling me he won’t be seen around me even if I am just using a cane on a good day.
I made a vow though, that I was not going to let my pain stop me, and that is exactly what I am doing. Mobility aids are made for this purpose, so that I can feel included in activities when my friends want to do something that I physically cannot do without punishment to my body later.
There is nothing shameful in using a mobility device. They are the wings that many people fly on. Nobody is confined to a wheelchair, we are free in a wheelchair with the opportunity to explore the world and have fun.
Of course there is the problem of accessibility, but that can only be changed in time by speaking up about it. And I want to focus on the positive aspects right now.
My friends this weekend decided to go hiking, and they didn’t invite me to go either because they said “You can’t walk that.” While they weren’t wrong, it doesn’t mean I couldn’t have rolled that. With a wheelchair I can combat the pain, dizziness, and fatigue that comes with walking just short distances for me.
Being in a wheelchair is nothing to be ashamed about. It is not giving up if you use a wheelchair. It’s knowing your limits, accepting those limits and finding ways to combat it so you can do anything you want to do again. I’ve accepted my limits, but I have so much living to do still, and if I have to do that living while sitting down and rolling myself, then that is what I will do.