Category Archives: Guest Posts

Guest Post: Your Wheelchair, and the Type You Use, Does Not Define You by Erin Field

“What is her birthday?” The woman working at the bank asked my mom right in front of me.

“What is her dog’s name?” The man on the street asked my boyfriend right in front of me.

“Would she like to check out with you?” The man working the cash register at TJ Maxx asked my mom right in front of me.

My Injury

On July 11th, 2017 I was in a hammock when a chimney collapsed on me. This left me with a C5/C6 spinal cord injury. This is and continues to be the hardest challenge I have ever faced in my entire life. However, it is shaping me into the person that I am today and I have learned so much in such a short amount of time. I could write all about my accident and the things I’ve been through, but I wanted to focus on something more important. I wanted to focus on how most people treat you once you’re in a wheelchair.

Power Chair

When I first left Spaulding Rehabilitation Center and finally went home, I left in a power chair with a headrest. Now, this is important, because people treat you much differently when you have your headrest on and when you do not. Anywhere that I went in my power chair, people were constantly staring at me. This didn’t really bother me as I was aware that I stuck out. What bothered me was people that looked right through me. It was the people that acted as if I was invisible. People would go out of their way to talk to who I was with but ignore me completely. It’s possible that they may have felt uncomfortable, but this was and is a very hurtful thing to do. Six months after being home I went back to college to finish my senior year. I was finally strong enough to remove the headrest from my chair. I noticed that when I did this that more people talked to me. It wasn’t only people that I knew, it was even strangers. It was a weird and very noticeable change.

Manual Chair

Fast forward two years. Now I am in a manual wheelchair. I do not notice people staring at me anymore. My friends tell me that people still stare, but maybe I just don’t notice it as much because I am not as tall in my manual chair so I don’t really see people at eye level. What is important is that I noticed that people were treating me more like a person. They talked to me like they did when I was an able body. Now, people go out of their way to say hi and make conversation. I don’t feel invisible anymore. Why is this the case?

People that I know or people that work in the medical field will constantly say “Wow, you look so great in that manual chair!” I do take this as a compliment but why does society believe that people look better in a manual chair versus a power chair? In many cases, it is easier and more comfortable to be in a power chair. But it is truly not worth the way that you are treated. However, this is not the reason that I use a manual chair. I use a manual chair because I do not have a vehicle with a ramp and I need to be able to get into a regular car and my manual chair comes apart. Power chairs are 400 to 500 pounds. As hurtful as it may be, I would not let society choose which mobility device I use.

Conclusion

In retrospect, before I was in a wheelchair, I never noticed power chairs or manual chairs. I hate admitting this, but it’s true. I’m not sure if I would have treated someone different based on which kind of chair they were in. Society needs to understand that it is a misconception that all wheelchair users have mental impairments. It is true that some do, however, many do not. You cannot judge someone by what kind of wheelchair or mobility device they are using.

A person should not have to explain their values. My wheelchair does not dictate my personality, my beliefs, or my life in general. My wheelchair does not define me. This is what is so wrong about stereotyping, especially towards those with disabilities. The devaluing of a human happens before we even speak. We can become our stereotype. Instead, see US before you see the wheelchair.

– Watch Erin’s 1 year injury anniversary video:

– Follow Erin’s journey on Facebook: facebook.com/livefearlessly3

– Follow Erin on Instagram:
https://www.instagram.com/erin.fieldd/

Guest Post: Why I Wouldn’t Rewind Time by Laura Bibby

I could rewind in life what would I change it? I think about this a lot, especially since I have had my spinal cord injury. There have been some things and also some people that I’ve wasted my time with during my life. Looking back would I change these times? Was this time wasted?

And, the honest truth in reality is no, because all those highs and lows have shaped me to be the person I am today. I actually like me for who I am, for what I stand for and the values I have and a little rewind in life would have changed my destiny. Living life with a disability and as a wheelchair user has made me a better person and I would never want to change that.

I’m privileged to have lived 41 years with no disability, after a sports massage that went terribly wrong I was left with L5 spinal cord damage, resulting in lower left leg paralysis. While there is an unknown level to my recovery. I’m hopeful that my limitations will be minimal and I will walk again unaided. Hearing the words you may never walk again was the hardest thing I have ever had to hear!

Living with paralysis, it has opened my eyes, and taught me so much. We’re the biggest minority population in the world, yet the most underrepresented when it comes to marketing products, as we’re the last to be thought of. While part of this stems from the fact that there is a great deal of diversity within the disability community, we still have significant purchasing power.

We’re slowly seeing models with disabilities incorporated in fashion and marketing commercials, but this needs to become the norm, and not seen as future-forward thinking.

I want to shake up this inequality and make our world more inclusive to all disabilities and I will forever fight for this community.

Disabled or able-bodied, we all have the power and responsibility to make society more inclusive for everyone and to see the disability community as a targeted audience and consumer.

People influence each other and such influences shape your personality. Some teach you how not to behave, others just enrich your life and make you feel awesome. For this reason, we are constantly evolving and being shaped throughout one’s life.

I have come to accept the feeling of not knowing where I am going since my SCI. And I have trained myself to love it. Because it is only when we are suspended in mid-air with no landing in sight, that we force our wings to unravel and alas begin our flight.

And as I push on, I still do not know where I am going. But the miracle is in the unfolding of my wings. I may not know where my journey is going, but I know that so long as I spread my wings, the winds will carry me.

– Follow Laura at @blue_brick_disability