29 September 2013 - by ~ 1 Comment

Not Confined

John HerrmannIn countless articles and news stories about people with disabilities who are wheelchair users, the person is often referred to as being confined to a wheelchair. This phrase makes it seem that having to use a wheelchair is a horrible fate. It creates images in my mind of a person being chained to a wheelchair, or a person being punished for a crime by being confined to a wheelchair.

As a wheelchair user for thirty-four years, I don’t consider using a wheelchair to be a terrible thing. To me it is a device of freedom and liberation. At the age of eleven, walking became too much of a struggle, so I got my first wheelchair. The wheelchair was a relief and enabled me to move around minus the struggle to walk and the frequent falling down. For a short time I was able to wheel myself around, but when that became too difficult, I got my first power wheelchair and was able to zip around with less effort. I was not confined. If not for the wheelchair, I would be bed-ridden and unable to go anywhere. My wheels serve as my legs.

I feel that a phrase such as, confined to a wheelchair contributes to the feeling among people without disabilities that a person who uses a wheelchair deserves pity, or is a hero dealing with a horrible fate. Wheelchair users don’t want pity, or feel like they deserve a medal for just surviving.

  • John Herrmann

    Correction: I have been a wheelchair user for thirty-four years