Growing up, I generally didn’t hear people talking about wheelchairs in affirming ways. I understood that they were medical equipment meant to help people get around, but they certainly weren’t considered something to celebrate or appreciate using. The only cool thing about a custom wheelchair was getting to pick out a color for the frame.
I really believe this mindset is beginning to shift, though. As wheelchair design and technology advances and continues to move away from hospital-style designs, wheelchairs are definitely becoming more than just boring medical equipment. And though we have a long way to go to get people to see wheelchairs in a positive light, I do think more people are learning to see them that way. Using one to get around isn’t a bad thing or shameful. It’s a lifestyle. Certainly, there are difficult aspects of being a wheelchair user, but that’s by no means the fault of people who use it. The blame lies with an inaccessible world.
Something that’s helped me focus on the positives and fully embrace the power wheelchair user lifestyle is serving as a Q Roll Model. I definitely don’t think of myself as a social media influencer, but there has been so much power in getting to be a representative for Quantum. I can show people all the ways that I live life at iLevel. I started this role at the end of 2019, so things didn’t go quite according to plan in terms of all the adventures I planned to take with my power wheelchair in 2020. From theater and travel in early 2020, to roaming around outdoors, to spending time safely at home, I’ve loved giving people a look at how my power wheelchair opens up the world for me. And I’ve loved having the opportunity to be a source of information about Quantum and iLevel.
As my time as a Q Roll Model comes to a close, I want to reflect on what an honor and privilege it has been to serve in this role. I recognize that having a custom wheelchair is not something everyone has access to. Struggles to get durable medical equipment covered by insurance make it difficult for many people to get what they need to be mobile. Freedom of movement should be a human right. The fact that I have the mobility tool I need to move freely isn’t something I take for granted.
My goal is to continue to educate about the importance of access to mobility equipment, and to continue fighting for people to have access to it. And most importantly, I’ll never stop living life at iLevel fully and unapologetically, for all to see.
About Emily Ladau: Emily is a blogger and serves as the editor in chief of Rooted in Rights. She co-hosts a podcast and has been recognized as an emerging leader in the disability community. Emily lives on Long Island and enjoys traveling and trying new restaurants. Click here to learn more about Emily.