The past 6mths I have been using Vera, my trusty wheelchair, far more. Distance is my kryptonite. Between weakness, uncoordinated muscles, low bp, and pain, my head in now more often stuck at crotch height, as my bum is firmly stuck in a chair. This has also impacted heavily on my independence.
Previously, with Francesca, my walking stick (yes, I name everything), I could manoeuvre around, albeit slowly, to go where I wanted, when I wanted. Vera however, is a manual chair. The weakness in my arms means that I can only push myself short distances. My still recovering pacemaker incision, means that a short amount of pushing aggravates the wound leaving me in pain for days after. So I have resigned myself to being pushed in my chair. For now.
Now many things frustrate me no end about being in Vera. The lack of independence. The fact that most of my favourite shops are not even close to wheelchair friendly, I'm looking at you Ishka. The fact that people look at you like your very presence is an insult to their delicate sensibilities. Or the pity looks, or the "you don't look disabled enough to be in a wheelchair" look. Or that people tend to pat you and treat you like your two, hard of hearing, have English as a second language, or are cognitively impaired. Or that others ignore the fact you are even there, and speak only to the person pushing the chair (big props to Mr Grumpy who either pointed looks away, or walks away, when staff go to speak to him instead of me). Or that people will reach or stand, in front of you when you are looking at products. Or that I can't easily speak to Mr Grumpy or whoever is pushing me. All of these things frustrate me no end. And there may be days where I could scream from that frustration. But above all this, are the people who touch my wheelchair without permission.
Can I just say to all and sundry:
DON'T TOUCH MY DAMN WHEELCHAIR
When I am in my wheelchair it is an extension of me. A part of my body. And you have no right to touch my body. I have been pushed and pulled without permission on more than one occasion. It has happened with everyone from doctors to shop staff and even the odd family member (although I may have bitten their heads off when that happened. That tends to work well as a deterrent.)
I may be slow but that doesn't give you the right to push my chair. I'm looking at you Dermatologist with the social skills of a rock. I am still coming to terms with my wheelchair. I am learning to embrace it's freedom and generally be okay with my loss of mobility. It may take me 10 seconds instead of 2 to leave your rooms but that doesn't mean you have the right to grab my chair and push me roughly out the door, nearly ripping my fingers off in the process, to pointedly dump me next to the only other person in a wheelchair in the huge waiting room. Because those of us in wheelchair society like to congregate together like seagulls on a pier. We have cool secret handshakes, and decoder rings too. Ugh. It's not like my son was there, and you could have asked where I wanted to sit. It is rude, demeaning, and disempowering. Do not touch my wheelchair unless I ask you to help. Do not rush me out the door without asking if I might indeed require help. Which I probably did, but was stubbornly wanting to try and do it myself. But that's not the point. Let me. Don't touch my damn wheelchair.
I may be in the way. Don't move me like I'm a box in the way. I'm looking at you ignorant shoppers and shop staff. Say "excuse me, could you move so I can get through?" It's not hard is it? I'm not furniture. I'm not an object in your way. To unexpectedly feel yourself lifted or pushed is a shock and a violation. When you touch my wheelchair you are touching me. Would you pick me up and move me if I was simply standing in front of a rack of dresses? No? Well don't move me when I'm in my chair. Keep your hands to yourself, use you inside voice and some bloody manners and simply ask if I can move. Just because I'm at crotch height doesn't mean I've lost the right to be treated with some dignity. It does mean that I am at crotch height and have a mean reflexive, left hook. Manners cost nothing people. Don't touch my damn wheelchair.
Just because I am in a wheelchair doesn't mean that I have lost all right to be treated with respect. If you wouldn't touch my flesh and blood body, then don't touch my wheelchair. Because it is an extension of me. A part of me. Ask me to move. Ask me if I need help. But keep you hands in your pockets, and off my handles, until I say yes.
So just once more in case I haven't been clear.
DON'T TOUCH MY DAMN WHEELCHAIR
Treat me as you'd hope someone would treat you or your loved one. Or you just may be faced with a pissed disabled woman ,who whilst she can't walk around a shopping centre, can still find your crotchal region with her fist, or your toes with her wheels.
AC/DC just seemed like the obvious musical choice.