Wheelchairs are not Embarrassing!

wheelchairs are not embarrassing4

At least, they shouldn’t be. But here we are…

Why is the use of medical devices stigmatized?

I recently found out someone I know has been struggling with their mobility. Rather than sink to the level of using a walker or wheelchair*, they choose to stay home most days.

It’s sad to me when people STOP living their lives to the fullest rather than using a medical device.

*But this wording alludes to the real problem, right? The need for a medical device seems intrinsically tied to shame. We feel embarrassed to be vulnerable and to have a visible handicap.

I have a lot of empathy for anyone resistant to and terrified of using an MD publicly. At the age of 19-20, my disability Friedreich’s Ataxia progressed to the point where I fell frequently. After countless falls at home and a few particularly humiliating ones in public, I finally gave in and purchased a rollator walker.

Thinking back, there are two big reasons I tried to walk unassisted as long as possible.

#1, I didn’t want to concede to my disability progression.

#2, I didn’t want to be weird and different from everyone else.

I understand now that using a tool created to help me doesn’t mean I’m weak or I gave up. Rejecting or embracing an MD doesn’t CHANGE the circumstances; it is only a reaction to the circumstances.

(We don’t shame a diabetic for using insulin. We encourage those with high blood pressure to take blood pressure meds. Yet acknowledging and treating physical disabilities OR mental health issues is less societally acceptable. Hmm…go figure?)

Using a walker didn’t make my FA better or worse; it simply empowered me to exist with less anxiety. 

Funny enough, I found that walking with assistance was far less embarrassing and traumatizing than falling in public – not to mention, way safer. Falls can be extremely dangerous if you land on the wrong body parts.

Nowadays, I don’t feel self-conscious about using an MD in public because I’ve used one for several years. Early on, though, I learned that confidence is key. Just “own” it, or fake it until you make it.

Being the cool, pretty, sweet girl in a wheelchair isn’t a half-bad title.

We would like to thank Lily for sharing this inspirational story with us. 

Please share your thoughts and/or comments on this or any other article.  And if you would like to get involved and share your experience with Ataxia, please contact us.  Join our community today.  A place where we empower you to build a healthy lifestyle and raise overdue Ataxia Awareness.  Experience transformative storytelling and share your story to inspire positive change.


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2 Responses
  1. Recently I got a scooter to help me not be so fatigued when I go out and have to rely on my rollator and my own 2 feet! My adult kids were very opposed to this. They said they felt like I would rely on the scooter too much and give up walking … I suspect the real reason was more along the lines of what was described in your article. And that’s also the reason why I’ve avoided using it! Lol!

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