I'll be celebrating tonight by going to my contemporary dance class - I suspect I will sometimes be in my wheels, and sometimes not, because that is how I roll.
(Film by English Federation for Disability Sport, and Fuzzy Duck Creative)
There is no way I could give you a complete picture of what being a wheelchair is like, not least because it is different for everyone, so instead I will try and give a brief, mainly pictorial, overview.
Very few of us are paralysed. Many of can walk or stand, but only for a limited distance/time, or only with a huge increase in symptoms, and some of us have very variable conditions so we may walk 'fine' one day, and use a wheelchair another. That person who stands up out of their chair in the supermarket a) isn't a faker, and b) might be me.
There are times that wheelchair use is inconvenient. Times that we may need help. Generally speaking you will know when I need help because I will ask for it. Not because I am inferior, or pitiable - but because here and now, there is a task that my body's limitations prevent me from doing.
But if I haven't said I'd like help - then please don't interfere. Your actions probably won't be helpful, but instead will take away my independence. By all means offer help, just respect my answer and don't force your 'help' on me,.
But does this make my wheelchair use pitiable?
No. They allow me to be part of the community, and are the key to many adventures.
And reflecting that, I have designed an alternative 'Happy Accessibility Symbol' ( HAS). One that reflects the joy and liberty that the right wheels can bring, and today, for the first time ever, signs and badges featuring it are available from my shop.
I don't think it should replace all the standard signs everywhere, but I do think it belongs on my car, and maybe the button badges on my coat and bag....oooh, and perhaps the back of my wheelchair!