3 Considerations to use the 'Wheelchair Card'

It goes without saying that my wheelchair is a mobility aide. If we don't want to be all hoity-toity sounding, it is at its most basic - a chair on four wheels that I use to get around in. But once we stick a person into that seat, and we bring that person out and about into society or the 'real world'...well... it becomes a lot more than just that. The wheelchair becomes a piece of equipment that has allowed me to cut-lines, sit in the front row, use the biggest bathroom stall, get VIP seating, board planes first, have reserved parking spaces, get free drinks, free rides, free..lots of other stuff etc. etc. 70% of the time I don't ever have to ask to get those 'perks,' they just come when I enter a given situation. The other 30% of the time? That's when I have to do a bit of decision-making. I thought I'd share three of my own considerations I think about before I decide to roll on ahead with that pass:

1. Could I be safer
Sure there are ADA requirements and all of that - but those don't always take into consideration the individual safety of each person with a disability, and his/her unique disability. What's safe for someone who is blind may not be safe for someone who has brittle bones! Take for instance I am at a club with my friends: it's dark, loud, there are lots of people and all kinds of movement -- chances that I will request a booth or table (away from the middle of the dance floor) where we can safely sit and gab are likely. Is it absolutely necessary? Not really, but I do prefer it so that I may safely enjoy the rest of the night.

2. Am I putting in excessive effort?
We - wheelchair users - already know all about adapting, accommodating, and finding alternatives. We know it like our lungs know how to inflate with air. I think that many who are not wheelchair users may assume that the initial effort we put in to adapt already seems like excessive effort on our part. But it's usually not; however, when we find ourselves pulling a neck muscle to see a concert, performing Cirque Du Soleil-esque acrobatics atop wheelchairs, or trekking up a side of a mountain riddled with jutting tree roots - it's safe to say that hurtling past those measures would be excessive effort. The point is that only you can possibly know how much is too much. And when we get to that point, maybe that's when we ask someone else if there's a more efficient and feasible alternative.

3. What would they think?
Ugh. I'm almost disappointed in myself for including this last question on this list, but the truth is the truth - and I have to own up to this one. I am trying to be better about this ...but when I do 'use the wheelchair card' I get incredibly self-conscious about what others around me are thinking. I hope that they are not thinking oh there she goes again, getting her way cuz she's disabled. There have been days when I decide no, I don't want to seem like I'm wussing out - I'll just suck it up and deal even though there could be an 'easier' way for me. And then other days I am able to talk down to it and think: judge me, I dare you to say something to my face - because at the end of this experience I will have left with awesomeness and you will have left with nothing but a mound of wrong assumptions. 

This last one is a decision that I find myself making the most when it comes to "the wheelchair card." But like all the other considerations above, these are considerations I practice weighing in my head everyday - hoping that some day I'll get a little better at reaching a solution each time.

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