Voices of the Community: Response to “15 Things you need to know about people in a Wheelchair”


Mathew Tilford wants to respectfully provide his perspective in response to this author’s well-intentioned article on her experience with her disabled boyfriend:

“I went off and managed to fall in love with a man who happens to be paralyzed. Yup, he was in a wheelchair.”  ” As seen in Elephant Journal’s My Response to 15 Things you need to know about people in a Wheelchair.”

We hope this helps to create a dialogue that enlightens and shares differing viewpoints without hostility and judgment. We are all living through our own experiences and can continually learn and grow from each other with open hearts and minds. Editor

“These articles kinda bug me. I’d like to change the title to “15 things we all must know about my husband” because she’s talking about her experiences with her husband.

I get that she’s creating awareness for people like me, but not all people who use wheelchairs are the same.

Diversity exists. As humans, we have different thought processes, different interests, different emotions and different daily struggles. Are you the same as your neighbors?

My point is, there isn’t a guide to treat people who use wheelchairs. Just be yourself. Use common sense, and you should be good.

To my wheelchair friends, it's okay to be yourself. I'm pretty sure we all agree with 1,3,4,8 and 14. Let me tell you my thoughts on the rest.

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    Shaking hands. I’m a paraplegic, so I have complete function of my upper extremities. My hand shakes work just fine. I do have a bunch of quad friends that prefer giving knuckles.

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    I honestly don’t like being asked if I want help. I’m stubborn and love to be self-sufficient. You’d be amazed at what you can accomplish if you don’t give up. Yea it may take more time. Understand that this is the person’s life and the way they have to do things now.

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    I agree, I choose not to attend certain events because I already know (from my previous experience) that it’s not going to be enjoyable for me. Don’t guilt me into having a shitty time just because having me there makes you feel good. Don’t be selfish. I have some wheelchair friends that disagree and find a way to enjoy the event either way.

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    Your wheelchair isn’t an excuse. Don’t be the guy late to everything and blame it on your disability. This is your life now. Make adjustments.

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    I’m not sure what to say about this one. People ask, and it never bothers me. We are human and curious. I can see how insecurities would affect some people when asked this.

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    Just ask. If it’s a stupid question, I’ll let you know. It’s like Russian roulette.

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    I agree that family members need breaks. I disagree with letting random people perform tasks that they are not trained in. I transfer just fine onto or into just about anything but when I was first injured I needed a lot of assistance. When untrained friends tried to help me, they usually made things worse. I’m pretty sure the paralyzed person should be the one who decides who transfers them.

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    I lost a lot of friends after my injury. It sucked at the time but looking back I’m okay with them not being around. I wouldn’t want someone pretending to like me if they aren’t comfortable with me. Be open-minded and understand that not everyone can handle this type of situation.

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    Sex life. Yea sex is different, and we are all curious to find out how. I’m an open book so go ahead and ask away. I see how some people wouldn’t want to talk about it.

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    Jokes and I got em. I make fun of everything no matter what it is. Most of the time it’s too early too. I’ve been through multiple tragedies and laughing about them has helped me heal. I love wheelchair jokes so much I always sit in the front row at comedy shows. We’re humans. We’re different.”




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