A few days ago, my mom and I went back to school shopping. It was a full day of errands that ended with ice cream. Anytime I go out in public, there are always people who stare at me and my Quantum Power Wheelchair. Over 99% of the time, these people are children. While they all stare for different reasons, children either know what a power wheelchair is or don’t, and it shows.
Our first stop was the mall. As we went through the aisles, I noticed several children staring, as per usual. Amongst the many stares, there are always a few kids who say something. They might ask their parents a question about me or say something out loud. Sometimes, they come up to me and ask me what’s wrong. This is my favorite, because it shows that the child is curious and is actually interested in learning about people who are different from them. People who have disabilities or use a Quantum power wheelchair, like me.
How I Answer Questions About My Power Chair
When I was younger, I never knew how to answer their question. My parents explained it to me. While I understood what I had, I never knew how to explain it to someone else. As I’ve gotten older, before I answer their question, I always make it a point to change my question based on the child’s age. If they are younger, I try to make it easy for them to understand and say something along the lines of: “When I was younger, I couldn’t walk like the other babies, so I drive around in my car!” If they are older, I only hope that their parents took the time to explain that some people are different. Most of the time, this is the case. When it isn’t, I take the time to explain that I have a degenerative disease that makes it impossible for me to walk. I try not to make it sound so morbid. So, I usually add that I get to roll around in my sweet ride!
Showing Kids Some Features on My Quantum Power Wheelchair
I even show them what my Quantum Rehab Wheelchair with iLevel® technology can do! I turn the front and rear fender lights on and off and elevate and lower my power chair seat. Back when we didn’t have to wear masks, I always made it a point to smile at anyone who stared at me. Sometimes they smile back. Sometimes, they run away to their parents. This is when I can tell that they have no idea whatsoever about wheelchairs, like Quantum power wheelchairs. These are the kids whose parents haven’t taught them about people who are different and have disabilities.
Driving My Quantum Power Wheelchair into the Van
And then there are the kids whose parents did! My favorite interaction wasn’t exactly an interaction. I don’t think the child knew that I heard him. I am so glad that I did! After leaving Walmart and going to get ice cream, my brother opened the ramp to our van. As I got in, I could hear a little boy talking to his mom as she was loading the groceries into her car. He said, “Wow Mommy! That’s so cool that her wheelchair can fit into her van! She can just drive straight inside! That’s so cool!” In that moment, I wanted to hug that mother. She had taken the time to teach her son about wheelchairs and the right terminology to say. I can only hope that more people are like her.
Getting Ice Cream While in My Quantum Rehab Wheelchair
Our final interaction was when we were eating ice cream. Two toddlers were running inside the ice cream shop and they stopped and looked at me with their heads tilted. The little girl tugged on her dad‘s pants and asked, “What’s that?” as she pointed to me. Her dad calmly said: “A wheelchair.” She then came up to me and asked me the same question. I responded with the same answer. She said, “Cool,” and proceeded to get her ice cream. While this interaction was absolutely adorable, I also greatly appreciated how the father said “wheelchair” and the kids already knew and didn’t question what that was.
If you are able-bodied and a parent or guardian, take the time to teach your child and others around you about people who have disabilities. You don’t know how much of a difference it makes in someone else’s life. If you are disabled, you can agree just how much of a difference it makes!
About Sakina Shamsi: Sakina lives in New Jersey with her parents and brother. Although she has spinal muscular atrophy type II, Sakina lives a full and independent lifestyle. She is active in the disability community and enjoys horseback riding, baking and crafting. Click here to learn more about Sakina.
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