Sunday, October 25, 2009

Less "Wheelchair-Bound" Than Before

The issue of the so-called "Dignity Wheelchair" came up for discussion about people with disabilities who can sometimes influence the media. One person took action, Brewster Thackeray, AARP's Disability Community Liaison.

Thackeray wrote me, "I just had a good chat with Jeff Deutscher, the media contact at Dignity Medical Services. Very nice guy. He was not familiar with disability terminology but was highly receptive to the points I made and felt they were very helpful. He and I did some marketing brainstorming and I shared a lot of disability perspective. He understood that both from a disability advocacy and an AARP-style caretaking perspective the term wheelchair-bound is misguided. He has promised to revise that term and also change "the disabled" to people with disabilities. I also learned a bit more about the product, which itself sounds rather promising."

I appreciated his action, especially since I didn't act myself. But, as I told him, the name "Dignity" continues to rubs me the wrong way, to coin a phrase. As far as I am concerned, evacuation of one's bowels or bladder is "dignity-neutral," and to imply that I need a certain type of potty/shower chair to preserve such doesn't suit my idea of myself.

Thackeray responded. "I don't use a wheelchair myself, though I have a disproportionate number of friends who do. The name didn't rub me the wrong way. I agree with you that going to the loo should be dignity-neutral, but I have seen how avoidable transfers can cut into the dignity both of the chair user and caretakers. I totally respect of course that transfers are often needed, and even desirable for circulation, etc., which is a separate discussion topic. But I can see how this chair in some circumstances could help avoid "indignifying" situations."

Perhaps I am overly radical.

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