Sunday, February 24, 2013

Scooter Vs Chair


Double Wow.

The discussion yesterday was wonderful. I'm afraid what I'm about to write will be mere gruel in comparison.

If you remember I was asking about power wheelchair versus scooter. I found a real difference in how I was received. Here are some differences:

My wheelchair seems to give me an acceptable status as a disabled person. While people noticed my weight, there seemed to be little in the way of assumption that one led to the other.

The scooter on the other hand put me right smack in the middle of the stereotype of lazy fat guy using a scooter. Here it seemed that my weight was directly attributed to my need for a mobility devise.

My wheelchair, then, gave me status as a person with a disability and as such my intelligence tends to be questioned, my boundaries tend to be violated. In my chair, I'm likely to be talked down to, if I'm spoken to at all. In my chair, I'm likely to be patted ... shoulder, arm, knee!

My scooter didn't seem to communicate the same thing at all. I was surprised that I was engaged by clerks and others as someone who we expected to have opinions and vocabulary. I was NEVER touched, not once, in the way I'm touched in the wheelchair.

My wheelchair reduces status but it also reduces blame.

My scooter increases status and increases blame.

The "fat guy on a scooter" deal, I admit, bothered me more than any other aspect of the experience. I am not a lazy man, I am not what they think I am. That, for me, trumped the issues with the power chair.

However what was really concerning to me was the amount of intrusion that comes with either. The assumptions and the stereotypes that wrap around me like an itchy sweater the moment I leave the door and head out into the community. It's strange, indeed, that people feel because they've watched House and read an article in the newspaper that they've been granted medical degrees. You can't diagnose me from looking at the seat I sit on - so why do they try?


Anonymous said...

It is my opinion that society is quick to want find 'what's wrong or different' with an individual vs. 'what's right or unique' about an individual. From their observations/assumptions and judgements are quickly made.

Beth said...

Hm. Sorry, Dave. I kinda figured it'd be that way from between how I've known people with scooters to be treated and, well, the pervasive "fat guy on a scooter" stereotype. I suppose I'm kinda lucky that I don't fit a stereotype wrt disability... though that does mean I get the occasional insistence that I'm not really disabled. (Because every young woman wants a cool walker to show off as a status symbol or something?)

Why people make assumptions and armchair diagnose? Sigh. Because they're asses who can't stand not knowing? Because disability disturbs them so much they must make up a story that makes it your fault so they'll know they can never end up in your place? (When I first got a wheelchair, I best fit the stereotype of the injured transiently-disabled. It was common for people that'd seen me before to ask "What do you do to yourself?!" I came to reply, "Just got me a degenerative neurological condition.." Shut them up.) And then there are the people who "diagnose" because they want to help. They must know everything about you in order to properly pray or they must know just the right (and wholly ineffective) herbal concoction or diet or nice thoughts or extreme "natural" intervention or whatever that will surely (not) heal you.
I really do figure the idea is part curiosity, part blame (so they can avoid your fate), and part insistence the condition is temporary if only you'll do the right things (in which case staying disabled is your choice, something they could reject).

I wonder at you getting touched. I mean, I've heard it from other people in wheelchairs, too, but it's not something I've so much experienced. I'm not sure why that is. Possibly it's my area. Maybe (hopefully) I give off a don't-touch-me vibe. I can imagine reacting violently to unexpected touch (PTSD-related), so that'd be a good thing. Certainly I'd respond to any sort of inappropriate touch loudly and rudely (but not as rude as physical contact, not in my book). I haven't so much been touched like you describe. I'm not sure whether it's me or whether I've just been lucky. I hope it's not just luck for my sake... but I'd hate to say I'm somehow discouraging this in a way that other wheelchair/powerchair users aren't, though they dislike the same touch.

Anonymous said...

Try parking in a handicapped parking stall someday if you don't have a visible handicap. People will start looking for a diagnosis right away, and usually come up with "lazy" or "cheat".

Anonymous said...

Dave, thank you for this discussion. Have you noticed a difference between using a power chair and a manual chair? I've only owned a manual chair myself.

To Beth, I get the touching too. People who put a hand on your shoulder, or touch your hands. Sometimes they say they do it for "everyone", but if you watch, they don't touch adults like that. I think they a

And then there are the people who CLIMB over the wheelchair without giving you a chance to move, and say "No Problem!" Yes it IS a problem.. to ME!


Kristine said...

Pretty much what I expected. Scooted users are "less disabled," and therefore treated more like adults expect to be treated. But then you throw in the weight factor, and the scooter exacerbates people's prejudices in that regard. Oy....

I'm also surprised by the touch thing though. I very occasionally have the experience you describe, of the patronizing touches normally reserved for children. But that's not my norm. My norm is that I'm NEVER touched. I'll be in a group of people where everyone else gets a hug, and I get an awkward nod and smile. Or I've had people who give me a hug, then immediately apologize, "I'm sorry, did I hurt you?!" (Um, no, you didn't...) I almost never get the casual, friendly touch that naturally happens between people who are comfortable with each other. I don't even get the incidental touch of brushing shoulders or whatever when in a crowd, or sharing a couch. My chair forms this bubble around me, that people don't like to pop. And I know a lot of people think they'd like that. But, you know, physical affection is a human need.....

wheeliecrone said...

Yes, Dave. There is a "disability hierarchy".
I have never figured it out and it seems to change, depending on who you are talking to.
I view it as a left-over from the Victorian attitude about the "deserving poor". Apparently, many people have such a strong the need to categorise everybody, that they have to find ever more distinctive pigeonholes. So that a person who uses a scooter is this, and a person who uses a manual wheelchair is that, and a person who uses a motorised wheelchair is the other. It must be exhausting for them.

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Scooter For Handicapped Person

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