Ambulatory Wheelchair Users

Sup nerds aka @Disability History Squad Today we’re gonna talk about ambulatory wheelchair users. TL;dr ableism is a hell of a drug and shitty media tropes don’t help. But first, a sidebar: a doc with all of the previous Disability History talks now exists. This one will be uploaded in a sec.

But back to my point: So what exactly is an “ambulatory wheelchair user”? It’s pretty simple: a person who has the ability to stand and/or walk who also uses a wheelchair. “Why would a person who can stand or walk use a wheelchair?” you might be asking in your head. Well, there’s tons of reasons! Several disabilities and chronic illnesses (including my own) involve symptoms like chronic fatigue, pain, falls/fainting/etc., and these symptoms only increase in regularity when the disabled/chronically ill person is tired or physically exhausted from exerting themselves. Rather than constantly exhausting themselves, regularly taking long (as in like hours/days long) breaks to try to recover, and then spending the next few days in bed because they tried to do too much, ambulatory wheelchair users decide to use a wheelchair instead, so they can do more without pain/tiredness.

An example from my own life: moving around my house, church, and other relatively small areas that I know how to get around well is pretty much no problem (unless I’m having a high-pain/fatigue day with no real cause) and I regularly do it without a wheelchair. On the other hand, going shopping in large stores or going to big cities (such as NYC) that require a ton of walking means that I *need* my wheelchair, or it’s going to be a miserable time for all involved. The first two times I went to NYC, I hadn’t gotten my wheelchair yet, so I just had to suffer through it. The group took frequent breaks for me to catch my breath and I sat down as much as possible, but I still spent the next several days exhausted and in pain, especially once I got home and could fully crash. On the most recent NYC trip I finally was able to bring a wheelchair along. Even though it was still a pain in the ass in its own right (especially for the nerds conned in to pushing me, soz, I appreciate you you’re gr9), as someone had to push me because it was a transfer wheelchair rather than a manual wheelchair, it had to be carried and passed over various inaccessible spots, etc., it was still overall helpful because the group didn’t need to take constant breaks and I didn’t have to ice my feet, take tons of aspirin, and be in pain constantly. :joy:
“But if using a wheelchair ultimately helps ambulatory wheelchair users, why wouldn’t they do it more often?” Short answer: Ableism is a hell of a drug.

Long answer: Disabled people are one of the most abused and murdered minority groups per capita, if not the most. This abuse is targeted towards practically everyone on the disability/chronic illness spectrum, and ambulatory wheelchair users are no exception. Because of incorrect and toxic media tropes involving characters faking the need to use a wheelchair for ~drama~ and then standing up in a *shocking dramatic twist!* to reveal that they never needed the wheelchair in the first place, especially when combined with the incorrect and stereotypical belief that only people with absolutely no use of their legs should use wheelchairs, people believe that people who use wheelchairs *must* have no use of their legs. When confronted with that not always being the case, people become confused, upset, angry, and sometimes even downright abusive.

This 4 minute video by Annie Elainey also talks about being an ambulatory wheelchair user (she pronounces “ambulatory” weirdly and it bothers me but that’s a sidebar :joy:)