PARAPLEGIA: Stereotypes home miscpage

I was on a message board, and the topic came up about stereotypes. All the posts were about racial stereotypes, so I thought I'd mix it up a little with a rant about wheelchair stereotypes. The following is distilled from that rant.


Anyway.. lessie.. I've been in a wheelchair for the last 4 years, and I've seen some stereotypes, and many ways the public, and people in chairs, deal with em....


Hi, I'm sane!

Some paraplegics I know are VERY fashionable in dress and grooming, (whereas, I'm a slob)... I suppose if you wanted to avoid the public wondering if you're also mentally handicapped, (Heck, there's a lot of reasons to be in a wheelchair), having a well defined look might block that perception...

heck, I've had strangers talk to me like I was 4 years old, before I answered back... I try not to include any undue vinegar with my response, but if I should happen to whip out some complex grammer, or a needlessly large word... well, that's fine too.



The other one that kinda bugs me if the public perception that I'm helpless. Every friggin time I'm alone and I order fast food, the clerk asks me where I want to sit... ..... (le sigh).....

Ok, they're trying to be helpful, and I'm sure there's many people in chairs who are less adept than me... but I think I can carry a tray in my lap, okidokie...?

To me, I find it pretty easy to see the difference between one of those paraplegics who compete in basketball or something, and a 90 year old lady in an electric chair who's on a respirator........ and all the varying degrees in between.

(for the record, I hate sports, but physically, that's an option open to me)

I've given up stopping people from opening a door for me.. by the time I explain that I LITERALLY took a class in the hospital on opening all variety of doors, and that heck, the occasional tougher ones are a challenge I enjoy... I may as well have just gone through... "Oh, thanks. It's a little quicker that way."

well, I used to be on the other end of that.. people like to help.. makes em feel good... so what the heck...

oh I LOVE it when i get to a door first, and hold it open for someone else. I don't think they know what to do about that. (I don't go way out of my way for that... but if I see em running to help me, or it's someone in a walker or some such.. carrying things, etc..)

What bugs me though is in a large doorway set, (like at the mall with like 8 double doors), people who can walk, going out of their way to use the wheelchair door because they like the auto doors, and then dawdling, and getting in the way, totally oblivious to me. (Little kids are okay.. that's a different story..)

I once had someone rush to help me on an automatic door... their button-pressing heroics will be remembered always.

Oh, and dropping things.. heck, small objects I often trust too much to stay in my lap will fall.. and i lean over and get em ASAP, so some helpful person doesn't beat me to it... a small victory to grab an orange off the floor, a split second before a nearby person gets it, to smile at them and say "hehe, got it, thanks."


Lookie! I could be worse!

I also try to negate perceptions that the general public would probably never form.... In the hospital, (which i was in for 6 months), on this wing, there were 3 general categories of patients...

paraplegics arms and hands work fine (that's me) Manual chairs.. pushed by arms... if anyone knows of Rick Hansen.. yeah, like that. (met him btw)
incomplete quadriplegics Arms work ok, hands... not so much... may use a manual chair, or electric.. many have both kinds
complete quad lucky to get a thumb twitch for a joystick.. possibly bad enough to require a 'sip and puff' control (like Christopher Reeves), and sometimes an injury that high comes with brain damage too.

To the vast magority, at a normal casual glance, all of those = "guy in wheelchair"... (as well as a billion other conditions that can put ya in a chair)

So, now and then, to confirm to the public that I'm para, and my hands are fine, I might go out of my way to demonstrate my manual dexterity. Especially since my wheeling gloves add some mystery to my hands. It's dumb, I know no one cares, or is even paying attention, but it's just.. something I do.. just one way to demonstrate I'm not a helpless stereotype.. (mind you, tons people with high level injuries get more done than me, so.... this quirk of mine is especially needless..)


I am not X-treme!

Of course, there's the other stereotype for people in wheelchairs.... (and maybe this it more prevalent around here, where Rick Hanson, and the semi-relevant to this, terry fox, came from...)

the "disabled people who don't let anything stop em, and can do anything" stereotype... I think there's a gatorade ad where a guy in a chair goes off into a half-pipe... yeesh....

I have my weaknesses beyond these uber-gimps... so don't assume I can always keep pace, (especially after a couple hours without a break) or that my unseen constant state of pain won't stop me.. sometimes it does stop me. It hurts. And the longer I've been goin', the worse it is. You will never see me in a gatorade commercial.

Even between very similar injuries, there can be a world of difference between each.. changing their original abilities in different ways.


I think that about covers that topic... wheee! Any suggestions for the next one?