As I’ve said in a few other posts on this blog, I was born with a physical disability and have spent my entire life having to use some kind of mobility device. At no point in my life have I been entirely ‘normal’ and experienced life from a ‘non-disabled perspective’. Although I’ve peppered details of what my life is like, I don’t think, I have sat down and given you a comprehensive, all-in-one explanation of how I view this topic. I plan on rectifying that now. To make this a little easier to write and, no doubt easier to read, I’m going to structure it around 3 questions.
1. Do I picture myself in a wheelchair?
Often not. A lot of the time I don’t notice the chair, to be honest. The chair is less a mobility device designed to carry me from Point A to Point B as it is an extension of my body. I mean, do you think to yourself “Where are my feet?” every time you get out of bed to go make your morning coffee? The same applies to me, for the most part. The only time I become highly aware of the wheelchair is when it is moved out of my reach and I am left stranded on the bed, the couch, or where ever else I hid away for some or other reason.
In the days was still in a walker and therefore needed to sit on an actual seat as opposed to simply staying in the rather convenient seat that a wheelchair provides, my parents would often move the walker and put it somewhere out of the way. Perfectly understandable if you know for a fact that you are not leaving the spot for a while (like going to cafés etc.). The problem, though, is I’m then left at the mercy of someone else; no longer can I make up my own mind as to whether I want to get up. If I wasn’t going to move, I wanted it to be my decision. By taking away the choice, it reminded me that I was not truly in control of my body as much as I’d like to believe. While you might not be consciously aware of your feet all the time, I’m sure you would become highly aware of the lack of them and most probably become rather anxious, to say the least. If, then, my wheelchair/mobility device is and always has been my ‘feet’ (for lack of a better word) why should I not be made highly anxious if it has been moved away from me?
2. Am I in a wheelchair in my dreams?
As with many things in the Disabled Community, questions like this have deeply personal answers. For me: yes and no. It depends on the context of the dream; sometimes I am, sometimes not. I think it is largely due to the fact that a wheelchair (read ‘mobility device’) has always been the norm for me. If wheelchairs are the norm I’m not surprised that they make appearances in my dreams. The reverse, though, is also true. Since there was no moment where I ‘changed’ I have always been ‘normal’. By far the majority of society is bipedal and it is considered ‘normal’ and I see myself as normal because, as far as I’m concerned, I am I sometimes see myself in dreams without mobility aids.
3. Is height a problem for you?
I often forget that I’m seated all the time. No joke. I seriously forget sometimes that I’m perpetually seated. I’m 5’10” and I often find myself judging things in relation to me based on my standing height, forgetting to take into account the fact that I’m seated. Needless to say, this can be beyond irritating when you are trying to get various tasks out of the way. I often find myself going passed one of our bookshelves, thinking “I’ll just flip through that book, I can reach it easily” only to find that it would indeed have been easy if I’d been standing. Seated, though, utterly impossible. At which point I’d have to Macgyver some kind of contraption to reach it or, far more likely, disturb some ‘biped’ to reach it for me.
Like I said: thoroughly irritating.
Naturally, there are a lot more things that are affected by the wheelchair but, for me at least, those are among the three most ‘frequently asked questions’ that I find come up in conversation.
P.S. Drop me a line if there are any other ‘fun facts’ you want to know.