Confined to a wheelchair

disabledThis is the symbol used universally to represent disability.  You see it in many places such as disabled toilets and disabled parking spaces.  It is a very useful symbol I admit, but it does not represent everyone who may consider themselves as disabled.

To be disabled means to be confined to a wheelchair all the time, right?  Wrong!  Some disabled people are wheelchair bound, but an awful lot are not.  Before my successful hip replacement I used a wheelchair, but not all the time, I used it for long distances, as it would get too painful to walk a long way.  Some days my hip would be more painful than others and on my bad days I would use the chair more.  This concept of a fluctuating disability was very hard for some people to get their head around.  How come I turned up to school one day perfectly able to walk and the next I turned up in a wheelchair?  Someone cruel once said I must be faking it to get attention.  I got no extra help from support staff on my bad days in school and no one would offer to push me in my manual chair, and this was in a special school for disabled children.  People were confused, a disability does not change from day-to-day, either you are unable to walk or not was how people seemed to think.  The looks I got when I was in my chair and suddenly stood up to reach something or got out and walked were sometimes quite funny.

At various points in my life I have used crutches or a walking stick to get about.  When on crutches I sometimes got asked what I had done to myself to end up needing to use them.  People seem to associate crutches with broken bones or injuries of some kind.  It was kind of hard to explain about a hip issue that I was born with.  Crutches are for the clumsy it would seem, not the disabled or so people assume.   With a walking stick people still expect you to be able to walk quite a long way it seems, having been made to walk quite long distances by various college tutors.  I think a walking stick confused some people as they are not seen as something young people would use.

Until a year ago I had a disabled parking badge.  Although I can not drive, I used the badge with other people when they drove to places with me.  It helped me to park closer to the place I was going or to have a bit longer parking time as I walked slower than most people.  I went though fazes of not using any walking aides at all, but still could not walk long distances.  The number of people who assume that as you are not using a walking aid you must be faking it or ‘borrowing’ someone else’s parking badge is quite high.  Most people never said this to my face when I got out of the car, although I did see some funny looks from time to time.  I found this out on a Facebook group I joined for people angry at those who misuse disabled parking spaces.  They post some very rude, angry comments about people using badges with no walking aids what so ever, but loads of us always comment back saying not all mobility problems and disabilities can be seen and we try to explain that you get a badge on the grounds of how far you can walk and not how you walk.  Not all disabilities have a visual to go with them such as a walking aid or clear deformity.  I think hidden disabilities are one of the hardest to convince other people of, that they are real and do have issues that go with them.

I think some people need to rethink disability, not all disabled people are alike.  A lot do not use wheelchairs all the time, some may never have used one.  People are often too quick to judge someone without knowing anything about them.

physically-impaired-symbols-london-1024x216I think these symbols represent disability more realistically than some and show how it can vary.

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