I read an article recently about a company in the wheelchair industry that asked their employees, who were able-bodied, to use a wheelchair for a day to better understand what their customers go through on a day-to-day basis. They were not able to use their legs for the whole day. While I definitely see the idea behind this and think it’s a great idea, as a person who uses a chair I wonder if this exercise really gives a good, or even the right, perspective of what real life for a wheelchair user is really like?
I’ve been in a chair for 12 years now. My life today is very different then it was when I first got injured in every aspect. I am a single mother. I live by myself with my children. I work. I travel. I am totally independent... which I was not when I was first injured. In the beginning, I could barely even dress myself independently, much less carry in bags of groceries and my drink while talking on the phone. Today I don’t give doing things independently a second thought because I have adapted and I am loving my life…with or without wheels.
So my question is, do you think that having able-bodied people sit in a chair for a day - their first day in a wheelchair in their entire life likely - really gives a positive perspective of the true life of a wheeler? Or does it give a more negative, sympathetic perspective that is hitting the “Poor Them” nerve? As a wheeler myself, I want people to see me and my abilities and not feel sorry for me. What is your perspective?
- Erika Bogan