Journal of IiME Volume 2 Issue 2 Wheelchair Use and Attitudes (continued) needs and circumstances of the individual patient, and in particular, listening to the patient’s views and desires. The patient, after all, is the one who best knows his or her body and circumstances, and is living with the disability on a daily basis. Diminishing someone’s ability to get around, or even to leave their house, or to condemn them to a daily grind of pain, by preventing them from using a wheelchair, can have an adverse effect on health; just being able to move around more easily, and to get out and about and socialise, surely has great health benefits. A Mobility Aid My attitude towards wheelchairs is that they are no different from glasses. You wear glasses to see better, and to improve your quality of life. You use a wheelchair to get around more easily, and to improve your quality of life. The Wheelchair User Most people (from all three groups, probably, but especially the able-bodied population) have no concept of the part-time wheelchair user. Most people think you are “in-awheelchair” (all one word) because you “can’t walk,” and if you can walk, you don’t need a wheelchair. I know I cause people a lot of confusion when I get out of my wheelchair and pull it up steps into shops etc. People often think that if you move your legs, or get out, then you ME STORY I was assessed for one ME clinic but they said I was too disabled and that there were other issues that needed to be worked on. They also said that because I was confined to a wheelchair they thought that would be too upsetting for the other members of their group! - Gary Invest in ME (Charity Nr. 1114035) are a fraud and don’t need the wheelchair. I have even been challenged by total strangers over this, as if it’s any of their business. “In-a-wheelchair,” “wheelchair-bound,” “confined-to-a-wheelchair,” are all extremely emotive and negative phrases. Not thinking about this until I was disabled, I thought that the phrase “wheelchair user” was a bit of politically-correct-speak. Now, however, I always refer to myself as a “part-time wheelchair user” and realise how important it is to be accurate in this respect. People do not become super-glued to their wheelchairs, becoming a single, freakish entity in the process. This is reminiscent of when the Conquistadors first arrived in South America, and the resident population had never before seen a man on horseback. They assumed that the two together were one unit; some sort of bizarre new creature they had never seen before. My own experience has been interesting. When I mentioned to my GP last year that I was intending to get a wheelchair (I got it privately so didn’t have to humiliate myself by asking for one from a profession that is so against recommending them!!) she gave the knee-jerk response, “Oh. We don’t like wheelchairs very much. People use them all the time and then their legs don’t work any more.” Professionals who say this should credit us with a little common sense. I took no notice of her, knowing full well that a wheelchair would help me, and this has proved to be the case. I got it in time for our holiday last year, and without it I could not have done any of the things the others did; as it was I participated fully, and even did some things the others did not! Since then, it has enabled me to get out and about and do things without causing me great physical discomfort and pain, or completely exhausting myself for the next few days. The other professions involved in my care (continued on page 50) Page 49/74 www.investinme.org

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