Disability is More Than Wheels

Disability is more than wheels. There is no convieniant way for your business or organisation to define disability.  That’s like trying to define all of humanity into your neat tick boxes.

My major disability is fatigue, or rather an inability to exert myself in any form without a real impact on my health.  Physical, mental and emotional efforts are challenging for me – too much of any and it leaves me with debilitating symptoms for hours, days, weeks, months.

When I use a wheelchair you can see a disability and you prickle into action with your policy fuelled by correctness and duty.  When I need you most is every other day when I am (to you) invisibly disabled.

When I talk to your call centre staff and am bombarded by questions like machine gun fire, my brain becomes foggy and my glands start to ache. My body begins to crumple.  Your tick boxes do not fit me. You’re impatient when I don’t understand on first explanation or when I need clarification.  You speak to me like I’m a child when all I need is a different pace.  Your script doesn’t fit with my life and my needs – yet you get frustrated with me.

I need rest and peace and medication because you and your staff don’t understand that disability is more than wheels.

disability is more than wheels

[IMAGE] Disability is More Than Wheels – 1 May 2008

When I visit your building or your cafe, your shop or your venue my disability is more than the walking stick I use for balance or the wheelchair I use to conserve energy.  Your design and lighting makes my head spin.  Your music system or your television in the corner muddles my mind.  Your layout makes a simple task a physical and mental challenge.  Your stairs are like mountains, you expect me to reach and duck and dodge.  Everything is now, now, now and when I move at a different pace you are suspicious, impatient or rude. My body begins to crumple. 

I need rest and peace and medication because you and your staff don’t understand that disability is more than wheels.

I’m not asking for your pity.  I’m not asking for anything expensive.  What I want is something simple. 

I want your understanding.  I want you to see individuals and not masses.  To have respect and kindness as key to success in your organisation.

You will discover these adjustments are of benefit to everyone not just those with wheels and not just those with a disability.  You benefit people in all their shapes and sizes, with all their needs and aspirations.  Be they eighty years old or with an eight year old in tow.  Your service delivers and attracts a friendly positivity, your building becomes a better place to be.  Your staff and your customers benefit – with or without wheels, with or without disability.

Disablity is more than wheels.

You don’t have to know everything about my illness or my limitations to understand my needs. 

You just have to want to understand.



This blog post is part of Blogging Against Disabalism Day 2008 hosted by The Goldfish

You can see a full list of bloggers participating in BADD

Here are some posts that caught my eye:



  1. This is great, Rachel. I hope you make a bunch of copies and leave them around whenever you go out……………

    May I make a bunch of copies? I don’t get out as much as you, but I think this might be an interesting thing to have in waiting rooms where the old magazines are read to ribbons!

    The drawing really makes it sing:-) well, sing tiredly.

  2. Really really great post. So true (and frustrating) that when some people hear disability they just think of wheelchairs. One thing I love about BADD is that I find excellent blogs – and today I found yours.

    Happy BADD 2008!

  3. Nina Oh yer! Go for it. I hadn’t really thought of it like that.

    Ruth Aw thanks Ruth! And thanks for leaving a comment. I think even full time wheelchair users must get sick of the focus being on their wheels when it comes to equality. We are all people first surely?

  4. Yes indeed. And the thing about it is that it really doesn’t require, as you say, expensive or extensive equipment or medicine; understanding is, however, priceless.


  5. Rachel, it’s a real bastard of an issue you’ve raised.

    Not least because people running around without a wheel chair, and few cares in the world, can ever feel but guilty, lucky, smug at not, yet, having been met with whatever fate might have one consequently chained to a chair or worse.

    I try; but it’s a minefield. Some will return my smile and accept my help; others brush you off as if you were trying to save them from drowning.

    Two sides to every coin.


  6. Wheelchairdancer – Thanks for stopping by :o)

    Ursula – I understand how it can feel fraught with difficulties – but it’s only as much of a minefield as any human interaction has the potential to be. Equality doesn’t mean being the same.

    Dip into some of the other blog posts I’ve linked to.There’s some great stuff. I learnt even more today about the world from other people’s perspectives. That’s a good day I reckon.

    Cusp – Thanks! :o)

  7. Low on eloquence at the moment, but good post – and I really like the picture. There is a lot in it that I recognise.

  8. Disability is more than wheels – it’s also prejudice. Disability is more than wheels – it’s also a lack of compassion. Disability is more than wheels – it’s cause for art – yours blew me away. By the by, do you do art commercially, we’ve always wanted to do a ‘comic book’ style sex education / relationship training project for people with intellectual disabilities. Do you do that kind of stuff? If so could you email me about it, my email is daveandjoe@hotmail.com . Thanks for this.

  9. Ahhhh, Rachael!
    You write wonderfully and you describe some of the same prickles that crumple persons with epilepsy.
    Certainly, it is more than wheels!!!

    Thanks for your post…come over to my own sometime and see what you think!
    I will link to yours, certainly.
    Paula Apodaca
    E. is for Epilepsy by Paula Apodaca

  10. Mary – Thank you! And eloquent enough for me :o)

    Dave – Oooh thanks for the compliment! I don’t currently do commercial work, no. I’m not in a position right now (with my current state of health) to take on anything but my own projects (with very flexible schedules!!). But I’m feeling very smiley that you would consider me :o) I shall send you an email to this effect also. Thanks.

    Janette – Of course you can link to me – no need to ask :o) I’m looking forward to seeing more of your blogging.

    Paula – Why thank you :o) I left you a comment on your blog – and I learnt some things from you and your blog already!

  11. “Your script doesn’t fit with my life and my needs – yet you get frustrated with me.”

    Excellent. Thank you.

  12. Rachael – This year’s BADD posts are so exceeding my expectations: yours is no different. From the title to the picture, it’s a fabulous post that says so many important things about having a disability. Just, excellent.

  13. Y’know what, I think this is important for everyone, and not just the disabled.

    Surely the message “I don’t want to be a policy. I want to interact with you, your business and your environment, as far as I’m able given my current state” is applicable, to every human being. Sometimes, policies stop staff from listening, hearing, interacting, empathising. I wonder if it’s as demoralising for them as it is for me, or if they simply don’t think about it.

    Maybe everyone who doesn’t fit into a company’s box is “disabled” in some way, although their ability to cope with it/ express it is vastly different.

    I’m not trying to be flippant, only to empathise. I bank with a small bank, get my electricity from a small provider, am insured with a small insurer, because every time I call them I talk to a person. Small business can afford to think about the people it serves. Big business serves shareholders. Sometimes they punish their employees for going the extra mile, because it’s more profitable to cater for the masses and exclude the people who don’t fit.

    The message “I don’t want to fit into your pigeon hole, but I still want to belong” is a rallying call for many, many people.

    M xxx

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