Please stop yelling at your kids just because they’re 20 feet away from a wheelchair! Nothing bad is going to happen. It really pisses me off when someone grabs their kid, yanks them “out of the way” and yells at them, just because I’m in the same grocery aisle or on the same sidewalk. Usually, the kids are nowhere near me. All these people are doing is teaching their children that people in wheelchairs are scary and weird.
Since I *am* scary and weird, maybe this shouldn’t be a big surprise! Ha!
Half the time it seems to be the adult worrying that their child will somehow go out of control and hurt me. And half the time it’s the other way around – the adult seems afraid that I’m going to run over their child! Or maybe both, and then I’ll invoke my disabled person superpowers and whip out an instant lawsuit!
It’s very stupid, because they wouldn’t act like that if I were just sitting in a regular chair somewhere near their child!
I also don’t like it when grownups yell at kids not to stare or ask questions. I’m in a giant cool exoskeleton with light-up wheels. I have purple hair. Kids get to stare. They should be curious! If they ask me why I’m in a wheelchair, I can answer them however I like. The parent doesn’t have to step in and act all embarrassed. I might say that I use the chair to help me get around, or because my legs hurt if I walk very far. If we’re in a social situation or a playground I get out of the chair, sit on a bench, and teach random children how to push themselves around in my wheelchair. It’s fun and it demystifies disability for the kids and teaches them that mobility equipment is just another tool.
Like this, when I took my nieces and nephews in a dunebuggy chair at Imperial Beach!
Little kids can appreciate the fun bits of a manual wheelchair. I give them rides on my lap down hill or spin around in circles or demonstrate how I can pop a wheelie. I can also converse on many fascinating topics, draw good cartoons, and carry many electronic gadgets with games in my pockets so it’s not like I’m the amusement park fun ride with no other dimensions to the kids I know.
Older kids who catch me in a bad mood might get a more snappy answer. Not the end of the world and not the end of the conversation!
There should be more Wheelchair Barbies, or Becky, or whatever her name was! Just to normalize things for everyone. How about a wheelchair using Bratz doll? I mean why the heck not?
Grown adults who stare or ask intrusive questions are being rude. They aren’t children! They have had ample time to experience life, learn stuff, and meet a range of different people. They can give me some space! Unless we’re on a playground or in some social situation and then I might offer my chair for them to try so they admire its maneuverability, just like I might want to ride their cool bike. Really, most of the time, adults should have other things to talk about. It would be like endlessly commenting on another person’s accent or the size of their feet … just tedious.
I realize not everyone is going to want to or be able to get out of their chair to lend it to anyone, child or adult! I do it because I tend to want to share anything I do or experience that’s a bit unusual. It’s a rare thing, but when it happens, it can be really fun. And it can be like personal activism or diplomacy.
It’s adults, not kids, who do all the rudest things to me as a person in a wheelchair. Adults are the ones who lean on the chair, kick my tires, grab the seat back and tip me backwards or push me without asking, or stand in front of me in a crowd so that their butt or crotch or purse is right in my face or so that I can’t see over them to a show or a museum exhibit. It’s adults who with false joviality will go, “Heh heh, sure wish *I* could be sitting down in one of those things!” while we’re standing in line. Yeah right. Ha ha very funny, I never heard that one before!
If any kids are reading this, feel free yell at your parents next time they wince at the sight of me and act all weird, just because we’re sharing the same sidewalk. But don’t worry… I’ll yell at your parents for you… with a smile. It gives me a little rush every time I smile like a shark at some lady in the drugstore and go “Actually, your child was no where near me, and I can see them, so you don’t have to act weird about it.” Every time I say something like that, someone’s head explodes, and I feed off their brains like a gleeful zombie as I wheel away.