Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Wheelchair Bound

Finally, the New York Times got it right! An article 1/30/07 in the Metro section focuses on the accessiblity (or rather) the inaccessiblity of the New York subway system. The article reports that there are a mere 54 "working" elevators in the system. The article uses the term "working elevators" very loosely, simply because of the fact that they usually are NOT working. The reporter interviews Michael Harris a 22 year old student.

The real difference I find in the article is the use of the term "person who uses a wheelchair" versus the more prevasive "wheelchair-bound." When I worked at WeMedia (media for PWD) I learned that a "person who uses a wheelchair" is the prefered language -- and the reasoning makes sense. The wheelchair is merely a mode of transportation. Think about this...would you say car-bound, bicycle-bound, or perhaps the incredible sexy Heather Graham in Boogie Night -- roller-skate-bound. That would make my favorite bartender, Dino, skateboard-bound (which he kind of is...). People use wheelchairs to walk. They are not tied to them. They (usually) do not shower, have sex, sleep, or poop in them. They do not use them when they drive, and probably don't sit around the house in them.

What is it about people with disabilities that particularly freaks people out? I think it's different than many kinds of prejudice (racial, religious, and so on). I think people with disabilities shove in the face that the body is fallable. We cannot control it. And this is a society that struggles so hard to control the corporeal -- through obsessive diet, excercise, make-up, plastic surgery, and so on. My disability reminds others that they too might be disabled one day. They see it as a loss of control. They want to look a way.

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