The Fine Line Between Helping and Being Used as a Wheelchair User

One time going through TSA, even though I have pre-check and all that to make it much faster, there was someone training there. They asked if they could train on me since there aren’t many people in wheelchairs coming through as a training opportunity. I said yes and it took SO long, upwards of 10 minutes, which is a very long time.

Just because I’m in a wheelchair and present TSA with an opportunity for training, does not mean they can waste my time by doing the same pat-downs over and over again. It began to get annoying and there was nothing in it for me, no reward since the only thing the TSA could reward me with is to go through TSA faster. I understand training, but also it seems like they didn’t understand that I still needed to go get to my flight.

My advice here for anyone in a wheelchair is to respect your time and say no to things like this.

Letting TSA use me for training is okay once, but then I started thinking why don’t they just use themselves and have someone with experience sitting in a wheelchair? That would be very close to and maybe better than using me for training.

Another example of saying no and respecting my time is a year ago when I was in the gym, someone told me they were interested in the wheelchair community and would like to learn more and hear my story. That’s not uncommon, but this was not a person I would invite over or go out for coffee with (one of those people that you don’t dislike, but you can tell there isn’t a good friendship on the horizon). Also, the way they said it was a little odd, they didn’t say that they were in the health industry or had someone close in a wheelchair, just that they’ve always been intrigued by the mindsets of people in wheelchairs (or something like that).

The issue here is that when I’m in the gym, I want to work out and maybe chat a bit with some friends, but not talk for 30-60 minutes about myself in this capacity because someone is curious. Also, I have this whole website, my YouTube, and my Instagram, which documented my rehab experience entirely. So this is also a situation where I say no.

Situations where I say yes are more common. A lot of people reach out to me over Instagram asking questions because they’re doing some sort of school project, usually for physical therapy or engineering. I take time to write out long and helpful messages for these questions. Or on YouTube when people comment asking questions, I’ll respond as much as I can. In the massage therapy community, I can volunteer to give therapists experience with someone in a wheelchair, and I get a free massage in return!

When people in the gym come up to me and ask me about my wheelchair, the conversation always goes to how it happened and such, that’s also fine because it’s a spontaneous conversation and not more than 5-10m, which I can cut off whenever I want to get back to working out. This happens a lot and is preferred rather than someone wanting to schedule time to talk about me and the only time I would see them is in the gym.

Another thing I’ve said yes to recently is to go talk to a school class and help them develop a good perspective for people in wheelchairs.

It comes down to personal discretion. When presented with a choice to give time and energy to something that is focused on you being in a wheelchair, does it feel or seem like you’re really helping in a way that would make you feel good? Or maybe it feels more like one person’s gain irrespective of you except that they need you for the gain?

2 Replies to “The Fine Line Between Helping and Being Used as a Wheelchair User”

  1. Sometimes it feels like I’m helping, and sometimes it doesn’t… I get that people have to learn, I’ve been in a couple of situations like that in the hospital where interns were learning given my level of injury. I get that it’s the only way for them to learn, but as you said from your experience with TSA it takes more time when training someone. I was cool with it in that setting, but when I go out with family and friends, I usually try to be short with people. I get they’re curious, but at the same time, I just want to focus on whatever we’re out doing. Whether it’s something simple like going along to get groceries, or at a restaurant or in line at the movies. I try keep things short when I get asked too many questions, but if they seem genuine, I tend to be more open. Usually people ask what happened, and then are curious about how I’m controlling my chair and other technology that accesses my phone. I guess it just depends on the person asking, and the vibe I get from them.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: