If you are not a wheelchair user, you will barely understand the daily obstacles wheelchair users encounter on a regular basis. As a wheelchair user, you have to have patience and be prepared for the unusual and unforeseen at all times. There are specifically 20 things people in wheelchairs have to deal with on a regular basis.
1. Outshining Your Wheelchair
In public places, wheelchair users encounter strangers just like everyone else. Unfortunately, most people just see a wheelchair instead of the person sitting in it. As a wheelchair user, you will find yourself trying to get the attention of people, instead of your wheelchair hogging all of the focus.
2. Constant Stress of the Wheelchair Tipping Over
This is a common issue that wheelchair users experience at home and in public. It’s scary to think that a small bump or unseen pebble can easily and quickly tip the wheelchair over and the user ends up on the floor. Wheelchair users are constantly on the lookout for surfaces that can be dangerous.
3. Elevators Breaking Down
Whether you live in an apartment or work in a building above the first floor, the fact that an elevator can break down at any moment is stressful. For a wheelchair user, you are stranded unless someone is willing to help carry you down or up flights of stairs and bring your wheelchair along with you.
4. Shouting for Attention
Since wheelchair users are lower than eye level to non-users, they often have to shout for attention. This happens at stores, bars, grocery stores and every public place around. It’s especially scary when you feel people don’t see you at all and could bump into you and cause you injury. Shouting and getting out of their way is your only defense at the moment.
5. Dealing with Silly Questions
For some odd reason, non-wheelchair users ask strange and silly questions, including “Do you have a job?” “Can you drive?” “Do you swim?” “Is your partner disabled?” “How did you end up in a wheelchair?” These questions are invasive and rude. But wheelchair users have to remain graceful and either choose to answer the questions or politely refuse.
6. Assuring People Every Thing is OK
This situation often arises when in the presence of strangers. It is understood that people are trying to be polite and offer assistance, but after the answer of “I’m ok,” they really should back off the situation. All wheelchair users are not in a constant need of help or trapped in an illness. They are just trying to live their lives like everyone else.
7. Being Patient with Others
Patience is something that not every wheelchair user has, but is forced to have at one point or another. People, even the ones you love, could say or do some things that really get on your nerves. Having patience with others who mean well and are trying to learn more about how you live your life, benefits wheelchair users throughout the years.
8. People Staring All the Time
The amount of stares wheelchair users get from strangers is overwhelming. Observers may compare it to a fan seeing a celebrity for the first time. They often watch in awe as a wheelchair user just goes along with their life and daily schedule. It’s uncomfortable to be stared at while you are just trying to shop, especially for personal items.
9. Getting Dirty Looks in Parking Lots
While it’s nice that most parking lots provide handicap parking spaces, often there are not enough spaces available. This usually means that if all the spaces are taken, the wheelchair user has to use a standard space. Since the handicap parking spaces are so valued, wheelchair users often get dirty looks for using the space until the onlooker actually sees the wheelchair.
10. Scratches on the Car
Lifting a wheelchair isn’t always easy. There are days when the wheelchair easily slips and scratches the paint on the car. Wheelchair users have plenty of scratches on their cars in the areas where they load and unload their chair.
11. Fitting a Wheelchair into a Car
This subject is a popular one among wheelchair users. No matter the size of your car or wheelchair, it always seems to be difficult or challenging to fit the wheelchair in the car perfectly.
12. Getting a Seat on a Public Bus
Most public buses have designated areas for wheelchair users. The space is often limited and parents of young children often park their baby stroller in the space. If you are at a bus stop with other wheelchair users and parents with strollers, there is often a conversation that happens to see who gets the space and who gets left behind.
13. Broken Bus Wheelchair Lifts
Relying on the city bus system is stressful, since the wheelchair lifts are not in working order. This can really ruin your day, which causes you to cancel appointments and even miss a day of work or school.
14. Not Being Able to Use Most Subways
The largest cities in the world such as New York, Paris, and London have subways that don’t have wheelchair lifts. This limits wheelchair users to take alternative transportation that is more expensive and inconvenient.
15. Cleaning Caster Wheels with Tweezers
Caster wheels are located in the front of the wheelchair and tend to collect hair, thread and other debris. The only way to remove the debris is with tweezers. This is gross and time-consuming, but it’s a job that has to be done on a regular basis to prevent damage to the wheelchair.
16. Never Using Public Mirrors
It’s surprising to wheelchair users that bathroom stalls specifically made to be used by wheelchair users have mirrors that are placed too high. This means as a wheelchair user, you are lucky if you can see the top of your head.
17. Making Difficult Turns to Enter and Exit Bathrooms
Wheelchair accessible bathrooms are not perfect. Often wheelchair users find themselves making a 10-point turn to enter or exit the bathroom stall.
18. Sustaining Mysterious Injuries
Wheelchair users often bump their elbows, break nails, bruise and experience injuries from doing everyday tasks.
19. Ruining Clothes
Even the finest and strongest material can’t withstand a wheelchair user’s day for very long. Often clothing gets dirty from close access to the wheels. Clothing also gets ripped, torn and worn down due to constant contact with moving parts of wheelchairs.
20. Dirty Hands
Manual wheelchair users often have dirty hands from using their wheelchair all day. Hand sanitizer doesn’t help much because it has to dry before touching the wheelchair again. Wheelchair users often carry wipes to clean their hands, but they will always get dirty rather quickly.
People in wheelchairs obviously have a wide range of obstacles that others will never have to worry about. If you are a non-wheelchair user, remember what you have learned and treat wheelchair users just like everyone else. Allow yourself to deeply understand that wheelchair users will always have to cope with these 20 things and much more.