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Fat Wheeling

August 23, 2013

The following is the second post from Casey, our new blogging candidate. This is a cross-post from her blog, “Adventures of a Part-Time Wheeler.” After one more post, we will vote on her inclusion.

I came across this gem of a meme recently on a Facebook group for disabled folks and was instantly livid.  The image shows an elderly white gentleman with round spectacles perched on his Back in My Daynose, a black hat, grey scarf, black coat, and white dress shirt with white text that reads “Back in my day wheelchairs were for disabled people, not fat people.”

My first reaction was “wait, WHAT?”  I was led to this spiraling stream of thoughts, from “some people are disabled then become fat” to “why does it matter as long as the person is doing what they can do to help themselves have a life worth living?”

There are several things going on with this meme, and the first hits on some very real issues with the current “obesity epidemic” panic.  The thought that fatness causes disability or that fatness is disabling.  They are two separate things.  Some fat people have mobility problems, but so do some tall people.  Some people with mobility impairments become fat for a number of reasons, but many mobility-impaired people’s weights don’t change.  Correlation does not equal causation.

The second is what gets me as a kinesiologist.  If a wheelchair helps a person get through their activities of daily living and maybe even gives them a chance to find joyful (and, dare I say, pain-free or pain-reduced) movement, then USE THE CHAIR!  If a cane allows a person to walk for longer distance, then USE THE CANE!  If your built environment is inaccessible to you with a manual wheelchair, then USE THE SCOOTER (or power chair or whatever else).  Being able to be part of a community, to be as independent as possible, and to be happy are all components of being a healthy person

There are so many people in the disability community who are so caught up in the obesi-panic or are trying to make an artificial delineation between who counts as abled and who counts as disabled… this needs to stop.  Now.  There are so many people in the supposed scientific community that are spouting fat stigma messages that are just contributing to the mental unwellness of fat people (and honestly, creating a panic within disability communities to try to keep disabled kids from getting The Fat).

Walking StickSo, glam up your wheels, glitz up your cane, bedazzle your walker, grab your carved walking stick, and move your body as joyfully as possible. My walking stick is in the photo to the left that I purchased four years ago at the Carolina Renaissance Festival. It’s a medium brown wood with green leather wrapping, brass studs, and runes carved in it vertically with the runes for “strength,” “balance,” and “journey”… might not be in that exact order. If you don’t believe me, see this post by Ragen of Dances With Fat about fat people in scooters. Or her post entitled “Bad Fatties on Escalators–A Rant.”

Stroll and roll happily 🙂

6 Comments leave one →
  1. vesta44 permalink
    August 23, 2013 11:40 am

    As a DEATHFATZ woman who uses a mobility scooter, this post is the bomb-diggity. Having my scooter (and the lift to load/unload it) has really enhanced my life. I actually get to get out of the house more often, do more things, go more places, and have an actual life.
    Ah, but there’s the rub – that scooter is allowing this fat person to be visible, which is a huge no-no for fat people, and especially for fat, disabled people. We’re supposed to be sad, pathetic beings who have no other recourse but to keep our fat bodies hidden at home.(/sarcasm)
    Sorry, not happening. I’m going to continue living my life fat at the world, on my mobility scooter. Deal with it, world, I ain’t stopping any time soon.

  2. BullseyeB permalink
    August 23, 2013 8:25 pm

    Right on, Vesta44! Casey, thank you for blogging about what is usually a taboo subject! I use a mobility scooter due to weakness in my legs from a progressive disease. I also happen to be “supersized.” I went through great mental and emotional anguish trying to make the decision to get my scooter. I felt somehow like a failure that I needed to use a mobility assistive device. I got over it when I decided that people were going to judge me no matter what I did. Fat and walking with a cane vs. Fat and using a mobility scooter…either way I am still getting out there and living. I can go to the store by myself and do the things I want to do! That is the important part of this issue for me. The biggest perk is that when I choose to respond to someone’s negative comment, I can move away from them with conviction in my scooter as opposed to limping off with my cane! Ha!

  3. August 24, 2013 10:48 am

    Thank you for this article! I have been battling mobility issues from spondylolisthesis (which causes lower back pain) for years, but recently, my knee started hurting so bad I couldn’t stand it, and I started having problems walking. After 6 weeks of the new pain, I finally went to my doctor. After xrays they found that my knee has been damaged by arthritis, and of course the doctor said “this happens to skinny people too, but it takes longer.” (My mother had the “worst arthritis” that doctors of the time had seen, and she was fairly thin.) He sent me to an orthopedic Nurse Practitioner who injected the joint w/cortisone and told me I need to lose 250 lbs. So I have really been struggling with the automatic thoughts that, “it’s all fun and games to be fat, until your knees give out”, even though I have been working to accept myself as I am for about 15 years or more now. I eventually had to start using a cane, and I have purchased a rollator walker so that I can sit when the burning pain tells me I have to sit down. So this article validated the fact that there are others with the same issues and I’m not alone. I confided in a friend about my situation and I loved what she said, “just remember there are people a lot bigger than you that don’t have these problems, and people a lot thinner that have much worse problems.” That helped put things in perspective. My body is uniquely mine, with it’s own history and genetic makeup, and cannot be compared to others. Maybe I’ll get a leopard print seat cover for my walker…..

    • August 24, 2013 1:29 pm

      My spine surgery was to stabilize my L5/S1 spondylolysthesis (on top of other issues resulting from it), so I really understand! I have trouble finding a way to stand that both my knees (which I’ve sprained, strained, and torn cartilage in) AND my spine feel ok with. If you get a leopard print seat cover, show me pictures!

  4. nof permalink
    August 26, 2013 9:45 am

    You’d think the disabled community would be among the first to acknowledge that invisible disabilities are a thing, that no one is entitled to be Disability Police, and that the cause of a person’s disabled status is absolutely never any of your business.

  5. Anna Hayward permalink
    September 10, 2013 4:59 am

    I put on weight due to my disability and I know a lot of people do. If you are miserable, in pain and can’t move, you don’t burn off a lot of calories and why the heck would you starve yourself as well? It’s hardly going to help your illness. Actually, my doctor was horrified when he found out I was trying to restrict my diet to avoid weight-gain – he said I needed the food to repair.

    Anyway, I digress. The point is disability and weight are not separate issues and for one reason or another, lots of us experience both. But we have as much right to use mobility aids as a skinny disabled person. Getting out of the house is an absolute must. When I see heavier disabled people stuck in the house, I sometimes want to get a scooter and kidnap them on it so they can experience life again! (just joking). People can be horrible about disabled people (of any size) and it seems to be getting worse in this time of austerity, but we can’t let it stop us. I’ve seen such positive effects from disabled (and fat) friends of mine getting out and about. One even takes her dog for a walk using a scooter.

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