Home > On Teaching > Wheelchair in the workplace?

Wheelchair in the workplace?

“Are you okay?” my student asked concerned.
“Sure, why wouldn’t I be?” I responded in a confused tone but I knew why she asked.
“Oh, it’s just…because you’re sitting today,” she started to stutter as her voice got lower almost not claiming what she just said.
As I rolled my wheelchair to the front of the classroom under my desk I assured her, “Oh, yea, I brought my wheelchair today. I take it out sometimes on bad snow days. I’m fine. It’s okay.” Angelika’s face lit up. That was more important to me than how I felt. Her ease meant more than my unease at that moment. She went to sit in her chair as we prepared to start grammar class.

The way I felt inside was completely opposite. I don’t like taking my wheelchair to work, especially when everyone knows how bad I want to walk. In two years, I can count on my hand how many times I’ve taken it to class. I’m always walking with forearm crutches so when people see me in the wheelchair they get surprised and ask. It’s no big deal. I thank God they care.

In Michigan we’ve had a snowy winter recently. It’s the worst it’s been in a couple of years. While walking in the morning to my car last Thursday, I was unaware my right crutch hit an ice patch. We were having a winter storm that morning. My crutch gave out and my body twisted, I fell to the ground on my right hip. Thankfully, I was okay. My neighbor Jay saw me outside and came out quickly to help. He helped me get off the floor and walked me back inside. I’m the type who likes to think I can do everything anyone else can, but this was a wake-up call for me to take more precaution in the winter. So I’ve been taking the wheelchair out on icy days, even though I don’t like to. I’m just glad I didn’t hurt myself.

Previous to Angelika inquiring, my director asked how I felt several minutes before this. “If I throw my back out and need to bring my cane, it’s the same thing,” she said trying to make me feel better about taking a wheelchair. I appreciate that, but really, it’s not the same. I would much rather walk with one cane than use a wheelchair. For one, it’s much easier to put in and out of the car. My wheelchair is a manual one. I have to stand on my car and pop each wheel off and put them in the back seat, than fold it down and put in the base of the chair. And vice versa, after I arrive to my destination I have to put it back together all over again.

I got my director’s point though, and it was nice she was trying to comfort me in my discomfort. “Oh God, I hope I never see that” I laughed, trying to lighten things up in reference to her cane. I’m more sensitive to people having trouble walking because I’ve had so much.

I’ve been praying. I think this is about acceptance for me. I’ve come really far, maybe not as far as I’d like. But walking with nothing is a big goal considering the injuries I had. I believe it’s possible because with God all things are possible. It’s no fun taking a wheelchair out, but I feel grateful I can put it in and out of the car. I want to start seeing it more the way everyone else does, as okay!

Have you ever felt that? Has it ever been hard to accept something different about you? I’ve never accepted using a wheelchair. I guess that has been my motivation to walk but at the same time I have struggled with acceptance of myself because of it. I know it’s not a part of me. I mean, it’s not a part of my make-up or who I am. But often times I worry others can’t see past it. Or maybe it’s me who can’t. Although I’m not walking as well as I would like, I’ve come far. I’m trying to remind myself of that.

Has anyone ever reacted to your wheelchair, or difference (of any kind) in an interesting way? How did you respond?

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Categories: On Teaching
  1. pjwenzell
    February 9, 2013 at 1:07 pm

    Zina..When out and about I hope people see my soul and not necessarily my severely diminished body or the wheeled apparatus that gets me around. But if they do not, I can honestly say I do not care what someone thinks about the wheelchair or the way it might insult their sense of order.

    I can say this with conviction only after asking the Lord to allow me to change and to become humble enough to accept my body as only a temporary vessel that houses my soul. I have changed course and now see my SCI as a blessing which has afforded me a closeness with God that without it I am certain I would never have attained.

    Most days, (and I emphasize Most!) I am free of anger, self pity, and the need to be accepted based on outward appearance. Meetings with true friends who after seeing me for the first time in a wheelchair have shown me that there is no change in our relationship (good or bad) whatsoever.Similarly, business meetings and business relationships carry on in much the same fashion.

    I am not attempting to portray myself as a martyr nor am I claiming to have superior will power or insight as compared with my other fellow SCI mates who struggle with these same issues. I harbor(ed) the same feelings of inadequacy and self doubt and much worse.. I am simply offering this path as a potential ray of hope so that others might consider the possibility of choosing to see their disability in a different light….a light that will lend purpose and meaning to one of life’s most challenging obstacles.

    Zina, thanks again for challenging me and all who frequent your blog and others lucky enough to find your well written and thought provoking essays!

    Like

    • February 10, 2013 at 9:39 am

      Pete, thank you for your comments and I agree with you. SCI can be a blessing, as it is written in the Bible, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Cor. 12:9) I think at times having insecurity is a part of being human, as long as we don’t stay in that place. As always, I appreciate your wise insight and thanks for your support!

      Like

  2. February 19, 2013 at 10:13 pm

    Thanks for sharing this. You have come a long way!

    Like

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