Respecting wheelchair users who can walk

People use wheelchairs for a lot of different reasons.

Some people use wheelchairs because they are paralyzed and completely unable to walk. That is not the only reason people use wheelchairs, and many wheelchair users have some ability to walk.

Here are some reasons some people who can walk use wheelchairs:

  • They can walk, but it’s very difficult and not an efficient way of getting around
  • Walking causes them severe pain
  • Walking is medically inadvisable because of the strain it would put on their heart
  • They have cognitive problems that make walking more difficult than wheeling
  • Falling causes them to break bones, and they are unsteady on their feet and fall easily
  • They can’t stand in place because they need to be moving to stay upright
  • They can walk some days but not others

If you see someone use a wheelchair sometimes and walk other times, don’t assume they don’t need their chair. If you see a wheelchair user stand up to reach something, don’t assume that they don’t need their chair.

People use wheelchairs for a lot of different reasons, and many people who can walk some absolutely depend on wheelchairs for mobility.

Disability is complicated, and personal. There are a lot of reasons that people use various types of adaptive equipment. (None of which are the business of strangers). Knowing one reason people use something doesn’t mean you know all the reasons, or that you are in a position to assume you know what’s going on with everyone you see using adaptive equipment.

Short version: Many wheelchair users can walk some. They still need their wheelchairs. Don’t assume that someone isn’t really disabled just because you see them walk or stand sometimes.