Mind Your Language

December 17, 2018

Blogger Shannon Kelly calls on us all to stop and think about the language we use when describing wheelchair users and ultimately to ditch the phrase “wheelchair-bound” for good.

Boundless Opportunities

When browsing news articles recently, the blogger came across a brilliant picture of a young wheelchair user’s inventive Halloween costume.  It was the ill-thought-out title that vexed her though: ‘Wheelchair-bound boy gets custom Halloween costume.’

Shannon fumes: “Wheelchair-bound is not a way that I or many members of the disability community want to be described.”

Free to Live

Shannon found countless examples of the term and argues it’s inaccurate and offensive.  She emphasises that her chair doesn’t limit her, it gives her freedom.  She explained to her readers:

“My wheelchair allows me to get out of bed in the morning.  It enables me to move through the world in a dignified way.  Without it, I’d be unable to leave my house, go to work, get my eyebrows done or travel the world.”

Fellow blogger Zachary Fenell, who is able-bodied, backed Shannon’s campaign.  He said:

“When I started blogging, I never used to think about the language I was using until I was educated on the truth. Wheelchairs enable. A wheelchair increases accessibility and therefore opportunities.”

Making Small Changes

Shannon regularly shares her action-packed adventures in her chair with her readers.  Ultimately, she believes that even small changes in the way people phrase their sentences is a start to addressing the attitudes toward people with disabilities.

Shannon suggests: “Instead of: ‘A wheelchair bound girl, Shannon Kelly, travelled to six countries in one summer.’ Let’s say: ‘World traveller, Shannon Kelly, visited six countries this summer in her wheelchair.’  The second sentence makes the story less about the wheelchair and more about me.”

See The Person, Not The Disability

Though both bloggers think there’s still a way to go in changing attitudes, Shannon believes that it all comes down to seeing the person, not the disability.  That’s certainly a message everyone can support!

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