10 Things I’ve learned from being in a wheelchair
We all learn from the world around us. Our parents teach us about growing up and how to avoid their past mistakes. Teachers give us our education. We learn loyalty, kindness, and how to support the people we love from our friends and family.
The people in my life have taught me so many things, but as an adult, I’ve realized just how much I’ve learned from being in a wheelchair.
1. Planning skills
Because so many places are inaccessible, I’ve had to learn how to plan out every activity carefully. In school, I always had to be ready for days when I wouldn’t have anyone available to help me. I like to be prepared, and I’m really proud of my ability to make a solid plan and stick to it.
2. How to not be bothered when stared/pointed at
If you’re in a wheelchair, people will stare. They’ll gawk, point, gasp, and clutch their chests in sympathy. They’ll ask ‘what happened to them?’ and won’t hold back from saying they think you look weird. People can say pretty much anything they want at this point and I’m unfazed. I can ignore anyone like a champion.
3. How to navigate a crowded space
Places are always too small and too crowded for wheelchairs. I’m always super aware of my surroundings, thanks to my intense fear of crashing into someone or something with my wheelchair. I’ll never be one of those people staring at their phones and not paying attention to where they’re going with 15 annoyed people behind them.
I know what it’s like to be excluded, overlooked, talked down to, and just generally made to feel like crap. My disability played a big role in how I was treated in school. From those years, I’ve learned so much about the impact seemingly insignificant actions can have on a person’s feelings. I’ll always go out of my way to try and make sure that I never hurt someone by making easy and convenient choices.
Sometimes I used to wish that people would take a second to see things from my perspective, but it was rare that anyone did. I decided a long time ago that I never wanted anyone to be wishing that I’d take a second to see things from theirs.
5. Elevators are terrible
They’re too small and they always smell like an armpit. I’ve only been trapped in an elevator twice, but it was enough to know that I’ll never trust those death traps.
6. How to be inclusive
I learned how much it sucks to not be included when I was just a little kid. My wheelchair meant I missed out on field trips, nights out with friends, invitations to house parties, and dinners. I could go on and on. It also meant I’ve had to learn to be creative, so now I can always find a way to include everyone when I’m making plans.
7. It’s good to laugh at yourself
Look, I drove into a wall at Target and broke my toe. I know I’m a loser. It’s alright, we can all have a laugh.
8. Skinny jeans are not worth it. Ever.
I tried so hard in high school to wear cool clothes and skinny jeans, but now I like to avoid pants whenever possible. Pants are awful. Dresses, PJ’s, and leggings are approved. Nothing else.
9. You have to earn trust and respect
I can’t get behind the notion that all adults and authority figures deserve your respect, even when they’re treating you like a second-class citizen. If you don’t respect me, I don’t respect you. If you don’t treat people with kindness and decency, you don’t get an automatic pass just because you have a title or seniority. Bye.
10. There is a difference between helping someone out of kindness and out of pity
I love when a kind stranger holds a door for me or grabs something I’ve dropped. I do not love it when a stranger rushes to help me while they tell me they’ll pray for me and refuses to listen when I tell them I’m okay. If you’re only helping me because you feel terrible for me, I’d rather you just stay away from me.
What’s the most important thing you’ve learned as an adult?