Why do most people think everyone in a wheelchair is paralyzed?

During a recent conversation, it dawned on me that so many people in wheelchairs are capable of walking/standing, but are afraid to because of what other people will say. There has to be a way to bring awareness to this and stop the fear of persecution.

There is this concept among the able-bodied that anyone in a wheelchair is paralyzed, which is incredibly narrow minded. But think about it… have you seen someone in a store using the electric scooters and then stand to get an item off the shelf. How does that make you feel? When you see someone in a handicapped spot (even with a placard) walk into the store, do you automatically think they’re faking or using a tag that doesn’t belong to them? Think hard, we’ve ALL done it at one point in our lives.

The truth is that people with invisible illness often need assistance, but not necessarily every day. That person you see walking in to the grocery store could very well have been completely unable to walk the day before. That person using the scooter, most likely is having a bad pain day and wouldn’t be able to get their errands done if it weren’t for the help. Often reaching for something off a high shelf can be just as painful as walking around the store, so standing to get it is the better option.

Yet… we shy away from it because of all the judgemental stares. We will park without our tag, just to keep people from being cruel. Bullies come in many forms.

Then there are those of us that use a wheelchair on a regular basis, but are NOT paralyzed. We can stand if needed and sometimes sitting all day is just as bad for us as walking. We may have to get up just to stretch, but that’s not what people see, so we confine ourselves to the chair and pray for comfort. That fear is brutal!

Personally, I use a wheelchair any time I would have to stand our walk for a long time. If I don’t, my knees and hips give out and I’m considered a fall risk. So I have to use the scooters at stores, especially if I need several items. Otherwise my pain will be too much, even with my cane. My manual chair is not as helpful in stores, so the scooter is the best option. I’ve started using my cane to get in to the store and keep it with me on the scooter. This is no easy task! But it is a visual for people that I really do need mobility assistance.

What NEEDS to happen is an awakening of understanding to the struggle of people with invisible illness! We need to dispel the myth that everyone in a wheelchair is paralyzed. Yes, some are… but many are not! To judge someone without knowing their circumstances is plain and simple bullying. It is ableism and needs to stop (even among those with disabilities). It is not our place to judge.

(On a side-note. If you’re not disabled and take up a handicapped spot just because the lot is too full, or you just don’t feel like walking that far… stop it! Seriously, leave those spots for people with disabilities. Even if you’re just running in somewhere “really quick”, that’s not a good excuse. You never know when someone with a real need will drive up.)

So, don’t be afraid to be yourself. Stand to get what you need, stand to stretch, and most importantly stand up for your right to stand.

Fear and Loathing… in the World

Fear is like a lie. It might start out small, or insignificant. But once another lie or fear rests on top of the other, a cycle is formed. It’s like trying to fix a hole with scotch tape, you have to add more and more. But in the end, all you’re doing is making the problem worse. Those layers will eventually be stripped away and reveal the damage done.

The opposite of fear is not courage, it’s knowledge.

We’re facing so much fear in our world right now. Fear of what we don’t understand, fear of other cultures, fear of brutality and even death. What would happen if education and understanding took it’s place? What if people took a step back and said “I choose not to be afraid of the things I don’t know, or can’t see.”

I have seen it so many times! Bullies that push people around, just because they’re afraid of what other people will think if they didn’t. Abusive partners, fearful of being alone, lashing out and trying to force love. Disabled citizens that choose not to park in the handicapped spot (even with a placard), out of fear from threatening notes and harsh stares. People afraid of their sexuality, because they’ve seen how others were treated. Young men that fear police brutality, and honest police officers that fear retaliation (for the actions of others). Refugees without a home or food for their family, fearful of what the future holds. A world in fear of war, torn apart by the deeds of a select few.

“The enemy is fear, we think it is hate; but it is fear.” – Gandhi

I am in NO WAY condoning the actions of bullies or abusers! Fear is not a justification for misdeeds and actions. This is all about opening our mind to what the real problem is!

Some people might ask, what qualifies me to write about this? I write a blog for people with disabilities and invisible illness. What does this have to do with that? To those people, I would say this… I may not be a scholar or civil rights activist, I may not even have it “right”, but I certainly feel like the way were going is wrong. I live every day in pain, I work tirelessly to advocate for myself and others with chronic illness. I have seen how fear can grab a hold of a person and make them want to just give up. My own fear has brought me to the brink of death; and yet it was the fear of leaving my children without a mother that brought me back. I have loved ones in law enforcement that I fear for on a daily basis, and I see how much pain they go through every time there’s news of another shooting. I am not here to say one group is better than another, I am here to say that until the cycle of fear is broken, we will never heal!

“The only thing we have to fear, is fear itself.” – FDR

Education is key! I’m not just talking about kids in the classroom, I am talking about unbiased news reporting honest headlines. I’m talking about flooding the internet with true stories, from the voices of those going through it. Muslim and Christian leaders, coming together and having civil conversations. Accepting that yes, Black Lives MATTER, without (even once) thinking that that means other peoples lives do not. Taking a step back, realizing that any time you say “all of this one particular group is…” is not productive and feeds into fear! This includes police! Not all police are racist, or are out to hurt anyone. They’re afraid, just like everyone else, and (unfortunately) some of them can’t handle the fear. Knowing all this can be the best deterrent to violence available.

We CAN break the cycle of violence, and the fear that drives it forward! So, even if you haven’t taken my words to heart, at least listen to one of the wisest beings in the universe…

“Fear leads to anger… anger leads to hate… hate leads to suffering.” – Yoda