One of the most frequent questions I am asked is how does it feel getting tattooed in your wheelchair? And I’d say for the most part, everything is pretty much the same thing as if I was an able-bodied person. The process is fun if you like tattoos and some people have personal preferences due to the pain involved in the process. Make sure you’re comfortable in any tattoo shop you go to. Always speak with your tattoo artist and make sure that you guys have a good vibe together. It keeps the whole situation fun and exciting rather than scary and uncomfortable.
When you find a tattoo shop, make sure they are cool with taking people who use wheelchairs. I think most tattoo artists would be cool working on a wheelchair user or someone with a spinal cord injury, but like I said: the vibe has to be right. Always have a real conversation with your tattoo artist. Discuss the location of the tattoo, what kind of symptoms you may have during periods of feeling and not feeling pain. While we all feel pain, different people have different tolerances.
When I first started getting tattoos again after my spinal cord injury, I spoke with my tattoo artist and explained my accident to them to make sure they were cool with working on me. I explained that we might encounter spasms during the process, as my body may not feel the pain but it shows the pain in a different way, like a spasm or autonomic dysreflexia. You need to make sure that your body can tolerate the process of getting a tattoo, as it is time consuming. After you’ve explained to your tattoo artist about what to expect and they’re ready to work on you, then get comfortable and get ready for the ride!
When it comes to accessibility of your tattoo place, make sure the building is accessible to your wheelchair. Not all locations have ramps, but if you really love the place, you can try talking to the owner of the building to see if they can put a ramp in for you. Or, you can bring your own travel ramp. Be aware: if the tattoo place looks shady, then stay away.
Through all my experiences after the accident, getting tattoos has been nothing but a learning experience for me and the tattoo artist that I work with. I appreciate the patience they have for me and my body and I appreciate them for taking the time out and working on me. They take their time and really make sure the lines are straight on my tattoos. If I have a spasm during the process, they stop and wait for it to pass. It’s a symbiotic relationship when you start the process and it can work out better than you could ever imagine.
About Jesse Cuellar: Jesse is an artist and a brand ambassador for Quantum Rehab®. An accident left him paralyzed from the neck down, so he uses his mouth to paint and expresses himself through his art. Jesse lives in St. Louis, Missouri, and enjoys painting and hanging out with his friends. Click here to learn more about Jesse.