Recently, I spent some time with my friends who I haven’t seen in over a year due to the pandemic. I noticed when I was talking to them that nothing had changed. After our conversation, I wondered what would our conversation had been like if I wasn’t elevated at iLevel in my Edge® 3 Power Wheelchair?
When I was 20 years old, I made the switch from a Pride Go-Go® mobility scooter to a Quantum Power Wheelchair. This was a big change for me. When I used my scooter, I could stand up and reach things. Now that I was in a wheelchair, I didn’t get out of my power wheelchair to get things anymore. I believed people would baby me when we talked or I would get the dreaded “kneel down” so the person could be down low at your height while talking to you.
All things considered, kneeling or talking to me like I was five years old never really bothered me. But that’s not the point. The point is that I liked things the way they were before I was in a power wheelchair. I felt that people viewed me and treated me differently. Why did this change? And why did their behavior affect me so much? It messed with my head. As humans, we are social beings who engage in conversations. We are also creatures of habit. So, I began thinking of different scenarios as to why people’s behavior changed now that I’m in a wheelchair instead of a scooter.
First, it has to do with what people recognize. Most people are familiar with a wheelchair as opposed to a mobility scooter. Wheelchairs are more accepted and individuals who aren’t in wheelchairs know what the accessible parking logo looks like. I mean, even little kids know the blue sign with the white stick figure in a power wheelchair. The accessible parking sign is very prominent educational tool for people.
Second, my age also played a role. At 20 years old, I was young to be in a wheelchair. I’m sure it did not help my case that I looked a lot younger than 20 when I was actually 20. When I was on a scooter, people thought I was joyriding or that I had broken my legs or hurt myself temporarily. I can’t tell you how many times one of my friends asked me for a ride on my scooter. When I started using my power wheelchair, not one friend asked me for a ride.
Third, I did not walk as much when I started using a wheelchair because my illness was working against my body. I couldn’t stand up for as long. In terms of perception, my life had changed. I spent more time down low having conversations as opposed to engaging in conversations at standing height. From a social standpoint, this became a real challenge for me. I learned the hard lesson of change. But why do things have to change because of something I can’t control? I liked the way things were. Soon, I realized things do not have to change. Advancements in technology, like iLevel®, really improved my life in many ways. Having the ability to elevate my power wheelchair for conversations really made a difference for me.
About Josh McDermott: Josh is a brand ambassador for Quantum Rehab® and uses an Edge® 3 Power Wheelchair for mobility. He is a public speaker and has served as a goodwill ambassador for the Muscular Dystrophy Association. Josh lives in New York and loves to travel. Click here to learn more about Josh.