My husband and I have been together for over three years. We’ve been married for about seven months. We have a home together, some cats and dogs, stable jobs and disagree about at what temperature the thermostat should be set. All in all, I’d say we’re a pretty average couple. Despite how boringly average we are, people always have questions and comments about the fact that we both use wheelchairs. Here are some of the common things people say to us and our responses.
I’m so glad you two found each other! It gives me hope for my [friend/child/other person] who uses a wheelchair that they might find love someday.
Whoa. You thought that because a person in your life uses a wheelchair, that means they won’t find love? That’s not a positive way to view wheelchair users. Wheelchair users are very capable of both being loved and loving someone else. My husband and I both dated many people before we found each other. In fact, we both dated wheelchair users and people who walk. We both loved so many people before we fell in love with each other. Lots of our exes loved us too. Please don’t think that wheelchair users are any less capable of being in a loving relationship than anyone else is.
Did you two get married because you both use wheelchairs?
No. We got married because, despite our disagreements on household temperatures, we love each other and want to spend the rest of our lives together. Our wheelchairs have nothing to do with it. Like I said before, my husband and I have both dated and loved many people before we found each other. Many of those people were not wheelchair users. In fact, I was engaged to a completely able-bodied man a few years before I met my husband. I will say that I feel my husband and I understand each other on a unique level because we share many similar experiences as wheelchair users. That is not why we got married. If that was the only criteria for choosing a spouse, then WOW. My husband and I would be married to other people. We both also dated other wheelchair users before we met. And I, for one, am very happy I didn’t marry any of those other guys (wheelchair users and walking!), My husband is a better match for me than any of the other guys were.
You’re so cute together! Can I take your picture?
No. Absolutely not. That’s really weird and inappropriate. Unless you’re our friends and you want to take our picture because you know us and love us, please don’t ask to take our picture. We are not a circus sideshow. We are not objects to be gawked at and we do not appreciate you treating us like we are a spectacle. I can’t tell you how many times people ask this of us, like it’s perfectly normal to ask strangers if you can take their picture (That’s not normal!). Often we’re just eating breakfast or walking our dogs, and people will approach us to take our picture. That’s not okay. Or worse, people will take our picture without asking us. Please just don’t do this.
You shouldn’t have kids.
Yes, people really say this to us. And yes, they’re serious. They usually have two reasons:
- Because you’re wheelchair users, you won’t be able to care for children; and
- If your disabilities are hereditary, it is cruel for you to have children and risk that they’ll have the same disability as you.
Both of these reasons, and their initial statement that we shouldn’t have kids, are ignorant, rude, and ableist. First, of course disabled people can raise children! Having a disability in no way would make us lesser parents. We both know so many incredible parents with disabilities. To think we would be less capable of raising children because we have disabilities is just ridiculous. Second, my husband and I are both successful, happy, and proud people with disabilities. So, what does it matter if our children also have disabilities? Disability is a part of diversity. There is nothing wrong with being disabled. As long as our children are happy and loved, that’s really all that matters.
About Stephanie Woodward: Stephanie is a brand ambassador advisor for Quantum Rehab® and works as a disability rights activist. She has received many awards for helping communities become more accessible, as well as for her actions in fighting for the rights of disabled individuals as it relates to Medicaid and other support services. Click here to learn more about Stephanie.