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Busting myths about using wheelchairs

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By Gem Turner

I’ve been a wheelchair user since the age two . I’ve always opted for a powered wheelchair as this was something that would bring independence for me. With many years of being a wheelchair user under my belt (pun very much intended), I thought I’d bust some myths that I get asked/told quite regularly from non wheelchair using people.

 

As always, this is from someone who’s a small wheelchair user and my thoughts won’t necessarily represent all disabled people so please bear this in mind when reading. Anyway let’s bust some myths..!


“Everyone gets their wheelchair for free”

I think people who don’t know disabled people – assume that wheelchairs are given from services for free. Although there are wheelchair services locally in the UK, it’s not something that you get for free. It all depends on postcode how much you are given as well as your medical needs. If you’re looking for something more than the basics – it’s very likely that you’ll need to source funding for what you’re looking for. For example – my electric wheelchair was between £22,000 – £24,000. Yep you read that right – they are both a necessity and a fortune!


“Using a wheelchair is a sad thing”

This is one myth I wish people didn’t believe if I’m honest. A look of pity is a default emotion I get from strangers in the street and even the odd pat on the head (yeah, I know – cringe). I usually smile back exaggeratingly to try and show that I am in fact very happy. A wheelchair is my freedom. It means I can go and do what I want without having to ask anyone else first. It brings me so much happiness and without it, I’m not only stuck – but actually my mental health quickly deteriorates without it. It’s hard to describe but I don’t wake up thinking everyday “woah I’m a wheelchair user!” It’s just part of me and the way I do everyday things, just like someone walking would do.


“You need a driving license to use one”

I used to get this so much, especially as a child at school. You’ve also got the typical joke you get in the pub “got a license for that, whey *nudge nudge*. I’m sorry to disappoint you, but unfortunately there is no such thing! I think for fun when I was a child disability services put some cones around to see if I could navigate them. I will admit it takes time and a lot of practice to navigate driving a wheelchair. However, a driving license for wheelchairs, there’s no such thing (in the UK anyway)!


“They can be easily lifted and carried”

When I’m out and about (pre-covid of course), accessing buildings can be tricky when you use a wheelchair. Although the law states all new builds have to be accessible – there are still a lot of places that aren’t accessible for all. When in this situation, I’m met with well intentioned people who offer to lift my wheelchair to access somewhere. My chair in particular is very heavy weighing at least 14 stone and that’s without me in it. Also, given the price I mentioned as well as being a young woman, this isn’t something I like to do. I’d much rather people invest in a ramp that can be used for many others too!


“Wheelchairs are unfashionable”

Although yes, some wheelchairs can definitely look medical at first, wheelchairs can actually be part of your outfit! When I was younger I would cringe at dressing up my wheelchair – but I think more linked to my disabled identity and needing to feel confident as a disabled woman first. I definitely feel this now. And so I’ve really embraced styling my wheelchair. I regularly use my lap belt as part of my outfit to make it look event better. Also, the festive season is where I shine! I love nothing more than putting battery powered lights on the back of my wheelchair. It not only looks pretty but catches the attention of people who may have at first pitied me – now smile and enjoy the lovely colours! Do you enjoy dressing up your wheelchair!?

 

What other myths do you think should be de-bunked about wheelchairs?


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