Wheelchairs, etc. #AtoZChallenge

Posted by Tupeak_Hope on Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Wheelchairs, etc. #AtoZChallenge

Often the use of a wheelchair is equated with someone being unable to move or use their lower limbs in order to stand and ambulate. While this is certainly true for some people and some situations, it is not a hard and fast rule. There are many legitimate reasons one may be relegated to using a wheelchair without being paralyzed. In this post, we will discuss just a few such instances.

A chronically ill person, especially one with significant chronic pain or ambulation issues may frequently need the use of a wheelchair or any number of assistive devices. A person like this must often conserve their energy in an attempt to ensure that they can accomplish the task at hand. Many such people may be able to walk a varying level of short distances. However let’s imagine for a moment you are only able to walk twenty feet before becoming extremely fatigued, but yet you must go to the grocery store for the week. You may avail yourself of a wheelchair or one of the little electric scooter type buggies while at the grocery store. For after completing your shopping, you must be able to drive home, make it into the house, and unload all those groceries. So every little bit of energy conservation you can perform while out equates to a longer duration of overall activity.

If you use crutches it may be rather obvious as to why you may be using a scooter or wheelchair. But let’s say you are without physical deformities, you may well be judged by others either to your face or behind your back. You may feel extremely self-conscious in using it. However, none of those factors should deter you from using any assistive device that improves your ability and quality of life. Remember, you must not justify your use to anyone other than yourself. Okay, maybe to your physician(s) and medical insurance provider, but to none other.

I personally have been relegated to the use of a variety of assistive devices over the years including a single point cane, a walker, a wheelchair, and even for quite a while a powered wheelchair. While I’ve been lucky enough not to need the power wheelchair in well over a decade, there was a time and place where it was not only a viable assistive device but absolutely necessary. Without it, I would have been relegated to being housebound. I would not have been able to go to the doctor without at least one person assisting and accompanying me, which was not always a possibility.

The fact remains that people are judgmental of what they do not understand. Even if they see you in a wheelchair with crutches across your lap, they may pass judgment. But when there are no obvious signs of a disability that, in their mind, would justify the use of a particular device, they are more apt to pass judgment. The same is true of disability parking placards available (typically) from your state’s department of motor vehicles.

I was legally parked in a handicap accessible spot at a local department store chain one day. I was on crutches at the time. I came out of the store to find that someone had called the local police complaining that I was parked illegally. While the police were extremely professional in verifying my legal possession of the handicap parking placard, (we are required to carry a companion wallet card to prove we are the person it was assigned to), it was a totally unnecessary thing for someone to do. Not only did it create a source of stress and embarrassment for me, but it tied up the police officers who responded from attending to a potentially more serious request for assistance. It was just a general waste of time and resources.

Upon talking to members of various police departments around my area at the time, it became apparent that this type of call was becoming more and more common. While we do not know why they are becoming more common, I can tell you that it is sad that we as a society have come to distrust our fellow citizens so much that we will make false accusations. While I do not disagree that there are likely abuses, to call the police on a vehicle with the appropriate license plate or placard legally parked in a spot reserved for handicapped accessible parking, is an abuse in itself. If there is a vehicle parked there without apparent license plate or placard designated for this purpose, then I can understand questioning the motives of the driver of the vehicle.

While this particular discussion focuses on wheelchairs, the same concepts apply to almost any medical or assistive device you could imagine even something as simple as a cast, brace, or bandage. Have you had any experiences with using assistive devices yourself or with someone you care about? Share your insights with us below.

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