Northwest NEWS

June 11, 2001


Guest Editorial: What do you say to a wheelchair?

by Norma Nickols
   We read, "She is confined to a wheelchair," or "She is wheelchair bound," describing a woman who was involved with her family and community.
   Was she bound and gagged? What were they were talking about?
   But what DO we say about someone who has a disability? How about, "She is a person who uses a wheelchair." That person part is what's important!
   Then, do we talk to her or only to someone who is with her? Or, do we take the easy road look away and leave?
   I know it is all right to offer assistance, but I also know one must first wait until an offer is accepted before they help. Too many times I've had someone start pushing me while they say, "I'll just put you over here, honey."
   I am among the estimated 53 million persons in this country who have a disability. I use a wheelchair. I'm not "special or handicapped." I'm not a "victim," not "differently abled" or "physically challenged."
   These labels only tend to isolate me. It's delightful when I meet someone who sees me, not through the lens of wheels, but as a person like anyone else someone who just happens to use a wheelchair!
   Among my friends and relatives are persons with vision, speech and hearing losses and those with developmental disabilities.
   They are parents, employees, teachers, business owners and more. They work, play, read, travel, tell the best jokes and bring a richness of diversity into my life along with the TABs (Temporarily Able Bodied).
   Many adults with disabilities in our area have a great need for integration into our community.
   Transportation services are essential. Important, too, are personal interaction, friendly conversation and acceptance.
   Communication is a two-way street. We must all travel this street to make ours a diverse and integrated community.