I use a rollator or powered wheelchair outside of the home.
One day I was walking to a shop using my rollator, very tired and out if breath. A woman aged around 50 came up to me shaking her head and said “God bless you” and then grabbed my arm.she wouldn’t let go when I pulled away (she was much stronger than me). In the end I said”thank you ” and looked at her to get her to leave me alone. She then left my arm.
I think she thought she was “healing” me like a preacher in an evangelical church.
I was furious and frustrated. I wanted to tell her to “fuck off!” but since becoming disabled, I can’t run away from a fight so have to be polite, but then after I am angry at them, but also at my body as I can’t defend myself as I could when I was able bodied.
Nobody intervened in this incident but lots of people walked past. I’m a angry with them too.
This is the most extreme example, but I’m regularly touched by others when using a rollator, but have to ask for things like doors being opened. At work casual acquaintances touch my rollator as I walk by.
I felt horribly vulnerable and had to squash my personality when walking around.
I recently got my first electric wheelchair and people touch me much less.i am less breathless now I don’t have to walk and can be myself much more.
Instead of touching me/the chair in an intentional way, people now push past me as if I’m an annoying object.
There is a bar handle on the back of my chair, but not the two push handles on many manual chairs.
One day a lady in a lift lent on the back of my chair for support. I didn’t mind this, as it didn’t inconvenience me and she needed a rest. Also, apart from being in the lift, I could easily move myself away.
I feel much better in my chair, but still use the rollator on days when I am able to walk short distances.
When I used to use a walking stick, people used to like to pick it up, on the face of it to give it to me (when I was able to do this myself), but really to feel what it was like. It felt like an invasion of my space, quite intimate and embarrassinh, especially in a work context – nobody (except my sister) ever asked if they could have a look. Overall I would say it’s the equipment rather than me that is usually touched. It’s tiring.
Criminologist and Co-Director of Centre for Gender Studies at University of Sussex