Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Answering What It's Like to Be a Woman in a Wheelchair Questions

Having watched Ask a Girl in a Wheelchair, I thought I'd answer these questions myself, as we are not all the same.

Have you ever used your wheelchair as a weapon?

Yes, I have.  Not against strangers, but against my sis once in college, when she wouldn't let me out of our dorm.  (That's not to say I wouldn't hesitate to use it, or my crutches, as weapons if I needed to.)

Does it feel like people are going out of their way to be nice to you?

Sometimes!  And I can totally tell the difference between a natural, genuine interaction and one that isn't.  

Does it bug you if people ask you if you need help with anything?

No, it doesn't bother me.  Everyone needs a hand once in a while and if I look like I could use one, I appreciate being asked.  I don't so much appreciate if I politely turn down the help, and someone insists and helps anyway.  

I don’t have a disability can I use the stall in the handicap bathroom?

I agree with the woman in the video!  If there's a huge line, and all the other stalls are occupied, then do what you need to do.  But the ratio of accessible stalls to non accessible ones is like five to one.  If a non-accessible stall is available, and you don't need the accessible one, please leave that one open.

Would you rather people ignore the wheelchair?

No, that would be weird.  It's a part of me.  I'd rather you didn't become distracted by it or only talk about it, but don't be afraid to mention it either!  (When my chair was brand new, I loved to talk about it!)

Do you get upset when people ask you how you got into the wheelchair?

If they're children, I expect questions like this, but from adults who are complete strangers and feel entitled to the information, yes, it bothers me.  Plus, it's kind of a weird question, because for me, nothing happened.  I was born with Cerebral Palsy and I have used a chair since I was like, seven.

How does it make you feel when someone says you’re an inspiration?

Depends on what I'm an inspiration for...  Did I write something that impacted you or changed your views on something?  Then that's awesome.  It doesn't bother me to be viewed as inspiring for an actual reason or accomplishment, but if you're saying I'm an inspiration because I exist, or because I'm out in public, that bugs me.  

Is it particularly offensive when people stare at you?

There.  How do you like it?

What advice would you give young women in wheelchairs in terms of what to expect when they get older?

The best piece of advice I can give you is this:  First, there is nothing wrong with you.  You are awesome just the way you are.  It might not seem like it, but there are a lot of people in the world like you.  Secondly, the best thing you can do is learn how to speak up for yourself.  How you do this is up to you - but know that it's okay to say, "no" if something makes you uncomfortable, if you don't need help, or if you are being discriminated against.  Tell someone you trust right away if someone is hurting you (in any way).  Don't keep it to yourself.  It is not your fault.  You don't have to be polite if someone is mistreating you.  Be as loud as you want.  Your body is yours.  (Wheelchair and other adaptive equipment included.)  No one has a right to hurt you.  You are valuable.  You matter.  When you get older, you'll need to learn how to project your voice a little extra so people can hear you, especially in crowds.  You'll have to learn to call ahead to new venues and ask lots of questions about accessibility to determine if you will be able to go there.  Make sure you have good insurance that will cover your adaptive equipment.  Demand equal treatment.  You are worth it.