Wheelchair Privilege?

“Privilege is not having to add the extra steps to make the recipe taste good.” – Jon Stewart

Let’s think about that by looking at the concept of privilege. Privilege, from a sociological perspective is defined as: “Unearned access to resources only readily available to some people as a result of their advantaged social group membership.”

What does this mean?

Instead of taking it from a black/white paradigm, let’s look at it from a able/disabled paradigm.

If you do not have to live life from a wheelchair, you normally don’t think about NOT having to be in a wheelchair. You don’t think about the access you get to have. You don’t think about how you will get from Point A to Point B on a daily basis. You don’t think about whether or not you will be able to get into Building One or Building Two. You don’t have to know how to evacuate the building in the case of a fire, as a wheelchair user.

If you DO have a wheelchair, you can’t NOT think about these things. You always have to be aware of where you CAN and CANNOT go, the places you DO and DO NOT have access to.

How am I privileged for being in a wheelchair when I was born unable to walk? I need it for mobility. These places aren’t wheelchair accessible!

How am I privileged for getting extra help in class or exams? I have learning difficulties. Or if I apply for learning support, I have to pay for it?

How am I privileged if I sign up to join a ministry team at church and the leader insist that I get supervised even after being trained?

How am I privileged if my parents get asked to supervise me in class, because the Ministry of Education refuses to provide a Para-educator due to personal prejudices, preferences and opinions?

You don’t have to walk up these hills. You don’t have to climb the stairs. You’re lucky.

Attention both positive and negative

Wheelchair users have to deal with dirty looks people through their way, especially when driving to a wheelchair parking space. Social stigmas are very evident as you’ll see frequent glares, discrimination in public transportation, public ridicule, and pinpointing as one drives to disabled parking spots.

Even positive attention isn’t necessary as even well intended comments can get overwhelming.

The race for getting into the elevator

Wheelchair users find themselves competing with the rest to get to the elevator first. This is never fair since other people can climb the stairs fast and get into the elevator first.

Some people are confident to ask wheelchair users to wait and go last as the wheelchair will take more space in the elevator. This is very hurtful.

The struggle for parking the vehicle

Nowadays, most places, especially public areas, have parking for the disabled. These parking spots are near the entrance/exits and are bigger than standard park spaces. This hurts some non-disabled people, and they think it’s a privilege that wheelchair users don’t deserve; sometimes, you’ll find them discussing this.

Parking in accessible parking areas isn’t that easy as it sounds. Non-disabled people often park their vehicles in these spaces. Whereas they may find it enjoyable, it greatly inconveniences actual wheelchair users.

The other challenge is people parking too close to cars parked in the accessible parking spaces. This limits the use of the wheelchair ramp, which is very inconvenient.

The grass only looks greener on the other side. Sometimes the wheelchair makes it look ‘easy to get by.’ We’ve simply been misunderstood.

These days, the term “privilege” might be used to explain at least some of these hugely varied outcomes. The term is often poorly understood and sometimes misused. But it’s also often based on a solid base of real-life experience. This is certainly true for people with disabilities. Disability is most often a social and financial disadvantage. But that doesn’t mean people with disabilities can’t have and enjoy what in current parlance we call “privilege.”




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About Daniella-Jade Lowe

Hello, My name is Daniella Jade Lowe. I am a PURSUN researcher and I am working on marketing myself as an Accessibility Consultant. Journalism and Politics are my passion. I have a BA degree in History and Politics. What type of disability do you have? At birth, I was diagnosed with Spina Bifida and Hydrocephalus which are neurological conditions. As a result, I use a wheelchair for mobility. What is disability to you? The only disability is a bad attitude. I have a disability. It doesn’t completely define me; it just enhances me in a way which differentiates and strengthens me. My disability should be viewed as an ability: to see the world in a different way. I don’t really like the term because sometimes it indirectly implies someone is dysfunctional or helpless. The most important thing is to never make assumptions. Someone with a disability can be very, physically, fit and strong, highly intelligent and articulate. What has been your experience from the time you remember till now? - positive and negative experiences. My life as a wheelchair user has been generally okay. Wheelchair Accessibility is frustrating. I was teased a little in school. Other than that, life is great. How do you cope with: -daily activities - your disability, do you have times when you are down - people's reactions towards you. I have carers, a Social worker, District Nurses, a GP, and extended family in this country. I am also in contact with a local disability charity in Yorkshire. I also have a friendly landlord. How do you keep yourself motivated? I must stay organised and practice good time management. I also prioritise my plans. What is your word or advice - to those with disabilities? - to the society Don’t let people put you in a box. You have a voice, use it. 10. Tell us about your platforms if you have any- Blog: The View from Where I Sit Facebook: Daniella Jade Lowe Instagram: @daniellajadelowe/@theviewfromwheresitblog Thank you!