I have for a long time wanted to write about the love I have for my wheelchair. And I think now it’s time. Mainly because most (nondisabled) people have decided it is dreadful having one. They look at it with pity and resentment, terror and confusion. They see it as something that must make my life a living hell. Sometimes, they see it and myself, as a joke or a property of the public. They think that because I need to use it I am limited, defected, not sexual, powerless and undesirable. Some even go so far as thinking that my life is not worth living and I am less then human – because of the wheelchair and the body that needs it. People like Kylie Jenner.
Kylie Jenner decided recently to pose on a cover page of the Interview Magazine in a black and golden wheelchair. First when I saw it I got irritated. What irritated me was that again a non disabled person had taken a piece of disability culture, without understanding the culture in it self, or the social context of what it can mean to use a wheelchair (because you actually need to), and used it to make an act. A piece which a disabled woman could not, at least without inner and outer struggle, use to make a cover photo more appealing or sexy. Not because a disabled woman in a wheelchair isn’t appealing or sexy but because she is almost never perceived as appealing or sexy. I was also irritated by the fact that while disabled women are almost never offered spaces in media (mainly because the wheelchair or something similar makes their appearance uncomfortable for others) Kylie Jenner takes up a whole lot of space without any hassle with our wheelchair. And this she does with the help of her able-bodied privilege that seems to be invisible to her (and most other walkers). My irritation turned into disgust when I found out that Jenner was using the wheelchair to express limits in her life (the media).
Well, what a surprise?!? Said no disabled person eva’.
So what I want to say to you Kylie Jenner and people who think and act like you; I love my wheelchair. I love it because it makes me feel comfortable and makes sure that my body is positioned the way I want it to be. I love it because, even though it is not a part of my body, I can almost sense it’s movement like it is. I love it because it is the only humanly made thing that is exactly for my body. I love it because it is designed for me, that means no one has the same chair, anywhere. I love it because it makes sure that I can move around and go places I want and need to go. I love it because no matter where I have gone, in what situation I’m in or how I feel it is always there for me.
I couldn’t love something in this way that limits me. What limits me are social structures, inaccessibility, prejudice, stigmatization and hate. Also, the actual fact that you see my wheelchair as a limitation and have a urge to show it to it the world, is very limiting. Disabling for that matter.
You probably think; ‘how could I have known that?’ Well, that’s the point. Your privilege probably takes away your ability to know. And that’s why you shouldn’t have.
I know I can’t tell you what to do. But I can tell you my opinion. And this is it. I don’t like it when nondisabled people abuse something that is a part of my culture and identity. Something that is very close to my heart. The wheelchair.
I love my wheelchair and to me, as a disabled woman, it is a symbol of movement, opportunities, freedom and power. And all those things are essential to my humanity, femininity and living.