I’m an ambulatory
wheelchair user, and my main mobility aid is an electric bike. When I use a
wheelchair it is a rigid manual with a smartdrive. This means I’m mobile on my
own, without needing “help” from people to push me. It also means I
transition a lot from wheelchair use to non wheelchair use. When I’m using a
bike noone touches me. Noone tries to ‘help’ me – even when it would genuinely
be helpful! When I’m a wheelchair user it’s constant. It is one of the many
things that makes wheelchair use very stressful. Most of the time people try to
help me by pushing me up ramps, especially into taxis. The problem is, my smart
drive is doing that work and it can (and has) send me flying across a cab or
train or shop. It’s dangerous and scary. I’ve taken to saying to people ‘don’t
push me’ before I attempt a ramp.
More weird are the people that see my wheelchair as a leaning post or hanger. They lean on my push handles or hang things off them. This is exclusively a stranger thing. I’ve no idea why anyone thinks that is an acceptable way to treat me, but it happens every few weeks.
My wheelchair has expanded my life,but these encounters make me weigh up the pro’s and con’s every time I consider using it. If I think I can possibly do without it, I will. That really sucks, because it means I end up in more pain and living a smaller life.
Criminologist and Co-Director of Centre for Gender Studies at University of Sussex