|Photo description: cartoon of a person tied into a wheelchair with the words: Wheelchair bound? OR Person who uses a wheelchair|
I caught enough of it to know that the term was used descriptively, in the present tense, and wasn't referring to the dim dark past where terms like that were routinely used. Before I could react with words, Joe reacted with a more guttural form of 'egad!' Somehow, without any real reason, we thought Jeopardy would be more evolved in its understanding of language and of the impact of language.
Here's a show with a huge reach, using language which depicts disability in an archaic manner. Our fight for language which represents us rather than demeans us is far from over. As a wheelchair user myself, I find the term 'wheelchair bound' offensive primarily because the image it brings to mind is inaccurate. I am not bound by the chair, I'm freed by it. It gives me the life I live. But I don't need to tell any of you that, do I?
I posted this on Facebook when it first happened and many have suggested that I write Jeopardy. I have done so.
I'm now asking you, if you saw the show and that kind of language bothers you as it does me, or if this blog is enough to motivate you, drop them a line. The show was on October 2nd ... so ... here's the link: Jeopardy
I've met many wheelchair users, but the only one I'd describe as 'wheelchair bound' was this one cognitively disabled girl who could crawl quickly and easily but could not push her own chair. Her carers seemed to use her wheelchair like a parent of a toddler uses a stroller - as both restraint and easier transport - and like a toddler with a stroller, she sometimes acted frustrated by being put in her wheelchair.
For every other wheelchair user I've met, the wheelchair allowed them more mobility than they'd have had otherwise. Which means it was freeing, not restraining them. Even those who couldn't control their own chair generally couldn't get around without it either.
Done. Told them they need to substitute 'wheelchair-enabled.'
Is that good enough?
When I see the phrase "wheelchair bound" I try to explain that this phrase implies that people are restricted by a wheelchair, instead of the truth - that a wheelchair keeps someone FROM being bound - bound to their bed, bound to inside their house, bound to a life away from the rest of the world.
And I often get yelled at for this explanation. "My buddy is wheelchair bound and he's fine with that phrase" or "I'm wheelchair bound and I use that phrase all the time!" - as if singular anecdotes get to be representative of everyone else out there. Usually tales come with the insistence that "Nobody objects to this but YOU, so the problem is YOU."
The bonus is those who bitch about "the word police," claiming that "if we keep censoring language, soon there will be no words left!" My response to that is always the same: There are over 1 million words in the English language. You should be able to adjust to not using a couple of dozen.
There are only two instances where "Wheelchair Bound" feels right, to me:
First -- when I'm on my way to the local dealership, to buy myself a brand new shiny wheelchair (See also: "Outward bound"). As in: "Whoo-Hoo! I'm wheelchair bound! ... I wonder if I can get one with purple stripes?"
Second -- when I'm with a partner I trust completely, and I'm feeling just a little bit kinky ('nuff said about that).
I don't see the big deal. If I was home bound it would indicated I was confined to the limits of my house unless something or someone intervenes. If I was graduation bound that means I am tied to my goal. Wheelchair bound just indicates that I am "bound" to the use of the wheelchair. I'm not physically tied, as with ropes, to the chair (although some do need supports), but the wheelchair is the major mode of mobility is bound to the chair. As I said, no biggie for me. It is just a description. When we say a man is "black" we are using an acceptable term to describe someone with darker skin. Few men of color are actually black. Most are shades of brown. Yet we use "black" to describe the skin color in general. I think we can get too "sensitive".
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