To Follow a Trend.... Ask the Chick in the Wheelchair!

I figure everyone else is putting up “Ask the [whatever]” threads, so I might as well join in the fun.

So I’m nearly 24 and am a college student, and I have Spina Bifida, a fairly common birth defect. I am, in effect, a paraplegic, although I can feel some areas of my legs and have some strength in them. A manual wheelchair is my primary means of getting around. I attended a school for physically disabled children until the end of second grade and was then mainstreamed to a public school within our local district.

I find that random folks on the street either come up and ask me questions, or stare at me as though they had questions bouncing around in their heads, so I’m gonna open this thread to answer any questions that y’all might have about my experiences as a paraplegic female in the NYC area.

Ask away!

have you been in a wheelchair your entire life? (not that chair, obviously… :D)

Do people tend to talk to you as if you were less intelligent because you are in a chair?

Maybe it sounds silly, but I’ve always wondered: do you know the jokes about paraplegic women? If so, who told them to you?

Have we succeeded in making handicapped access nearly universal, or is it sort of a token effort that you wish was more thorough?

How many friends do you have? (I’m sorry, but this question has always been in my mind, I hope it isn’t painful, spiteful, or rude etc)

Uncomfortable, or did you always sort of understand?

Do you date?

As always in these threads, please ignore any questions that are rude or intrusive.


Ever use an electric wheelchair? A guy I used to work with had an electric, and we all learned that when we heard “clickclickwhirrrrr”, that meant “get the hell out of the aisle, because I’m coming through.” Those suckas move, man.

His cats lived in fear. And on top of the tables. Glared at him a lot, too.

How do you handle winter? I’ve seen chairs here in the Twin Cities that had big knobby rails, kind of like sailing ship’s wheels, for use while wearing gloves. For all I know, they worked like chains, too, in deep snow.

I have to admit to being curious about what small children do. Do they have wheelchairs that fit their size? At what age do kids get their first wheelchair? Or do their parents just carry them everywhere? (I’ve wondered because I’ve never once noticed a paraplegic child in public.)

Originally posted by Blanx:

Whaddya mean, not this one? Of course it’s this one! :wink:

In seriousness… When I was a small child, I could either crawl or haul myself around on my butt using my hands to propel myself along the floor. When I got to be school age, though, I needed to start using a wheelchair simply for mobility purposes - I can’t hold myself up well enough to get anywhere effectively on crutches.

It’s been known to happen, on occasion, but I think it’s been a rarity. The reason for that is, I think, because I was taught from a young age to assert myself. Also because (not to sound snotty) I’m pretty intelligent and well-spoken. What I’ve found to be more prevalent is for people to refer to me as “the wheelchair” (i.e. “Three people and a wheelchair?” “Watch out for the wheelchair!”), which is irritating.

Originally posted by erislover:

Huh? I guess I don’t - there’s a whole section of jokes about us? Should I feel honored?

I think that a serious (as opposed to a token) effort has been undertaken, although wheelchair access (my focus, as opposed to access for the hearing-impaired/blind/etc.) is, I think, far from being universal. Do I wish that more places were wheelchair accessible? Sure do. Are more and more places making accomodations? Yep.

First, I’m up for all questions; I’m not easily offended - one of my intentions in starting this thread was to hopefully answer some of the questions that people might otherwise be uncomfortable asking. So long as someone doesn’t outwardly attempt to be an ass, I’m not gonna take offense.

Onto the question. I actually have a lot of friends - I’ve always been a very social person, since I was a little kid. I’m the type to strike up a conversation with someone and maybe make a friend.

And the thing about people staring at me… It’s weird, yeah, but by “staring”, I mean a prolonged, weird, “Children of the Corn” stare. Most of the time, however, people just give me…lingering looks. That bounces off of me - I’m used to people looking at me a little longer.

ok, having answered that- how do you prefer people (in particular, men) to address you? esp in social settings…

what I mean is this- the hypothetical guy is taller than you when standing, obviously. Should he lean over, squat down, cozy up on your lap…

inquiring minds want to know!

Originally posted by Shodan:

grin Lookin’ for a date, Shodan? :wink: Yeah, I date - I’ve mostly dated able-bodied guys, save for my first “boyfriend” (who has the same disability as I) and another one who happened to be hearing-impaired. I don’t specifically look for able-bodied guys, though - they just make up more of the population. Haven’t seriously dated in a couple years, though - haven’t clicked with anyone.

Originally posted by Ethilrist:

No, I’ve never had an electric wheelchair - so many people say, “Y’know, you should get one of them electric jobbies!”. :slight_smile: Truthfully, though, I don’t need one. Besides, I need to keep my muscles occupied. If I used a motorized chair, my upper body’d turn to Jell-o, which would suck. I’m pretty diesel, actually. :wink:

And in winter, I’m just slow and careful. I obviously can’t get over snow piles and such, but I can manage a bit of snow on the ground - like what’s left on the sidewalks after people shovel. Sometimes I’ll get a little stuck - being reasonably strong comes in handy then. If I can’t quite unstick myself, I’ll ask a passing pedestrian for a shove.

Originally posted by Q.N. Jones:

Hmm… Well, I know that I spent a lot of time in the hospital when I was a small child, having orthopedic surgeries and such, so I don’t remember how much need I had for a chair. But yeah, there are kiddie-sized wheelchairs - Quickie is a big wheelchair manufacturer, I’ll look at their website. I was using a wheelchair when I was 7, I know that for sure. I dunno what the average age for a first wheelchair purchase is - dunno if such a demographic really exists. Good question!

Originally posted by blanx:

Heh. He should talk to me as though he were talking to someone who was standing - the whole squatting-down thing is unnecessary. Leaning over isn’t necessary unless we can’t hear each other or he wants to plant one on me. :wink:

And sure, if he’s a cute guy who doesn’t skeeve me out, he’s welcome to sit on my lap! :stuck_out_tongue:

Thanks! always wondered about that- have a semi-distant relative in a wheelchair, and didn’t have the sort of relationship where I could ask him.

:hops on lap:

Cos, Do you drive? The reason I ask, is I had a friend years ago who was in an auto accident and had both legs amputated just above the knee. She had her motorhome adapted so she could drive. Better than a lot of people out there.

BTW don’t forget the “Weelchair Guy” over in Cambridge! :slight_smile:

Cosmo, I’m jealous, your thread is WAY more popular than mine!

Originally posted by Jake:

Yeah, when I have an adapted car - I’m carless at this time. And who’s “the Wheelchair Guy over in Cambridge”? :clueless smiley:

erictelevision; what’s your thread? I’m sure I missed it!

What do you do when you are confronted with someplace non-accessable? I mean this less in a “do you tell the management” kind of way and more of a “how do you navigate stairs, or do you even try?”. In other words, do you try to go around, have people pick up the wheelchair and carry it, or just say “screw it” and go someplace else?

Ask the 'bif guy

mm… upper body strength… :slight_smile:

I found your thread (“Ask the 'bif”), erictelevision… I kinda have a quibble, though.

In it, someone asked:

You said:

First, Vitamin E isn’t folic acid - folic acid is a B vitamin.

Second, you seemed, in your response, to tell the poster that yes, high doses of folic acid eliminate the risk of Spina Bifida.

That isn’t, to my knowledge, proven. High doses of folic acid do seem to lower the odds of having a Spina Bifida baby, but I wouldn’t nearly say that taking high doses of FA eliminates the chances of having a SB baby.

Notice that the sites make mention of a reduced risk of Spina Bifida but also state that there’s no guarantees.

Don’t mean to sound schoolmarmish, just wanted to make sure that we had our terms straight and all that.

…mmmm schoolmarmish…

IA blanx!

Originally posted by Beeblebrox:

I’m normally of the “screw it” camp, especially if it’s more than one or two steps. Otherwise, I might ask a male friend/family member for help (the women I know aren’t strong enough to handle me and the chair). I’ll also accept assistance from the management, if they offer. This could come in the form of helping me inside, bringing certain merchandise outside to show me(a denim skirt, a certain book, whatever), etc.

Otherwise, I simply move on. I usually avoid bars with steps at the entrance, unless there’s only two and they’re shallow - I don’t trust drunk people navigating myself and my chair down several steps.