On April 13, the sports section greeted me with two articles containing phrases which express attitudes about people with disabilities that are horribly outdated, misleading and condescending.
Raymond Partsch III’s article about Shae Stelly describes the young, de facto baseball coach as being “relegated to his electric wheelchair” and Ted Lewis’ Time Out column about Indy car owner Sam Schmidt describes this accomplished former driver and businessman as “wheelchair-bound.” Both pieces use these phrases in ways that create the image of people who are less than others and who, because they cannot walk, should be pitied. Yet according to the rest of the articles, nothing could be further from the truth.
Both subjects are very good at what they do. Both are respected by their peers. Mr. Schmidt is well-respected by his drivers. Yet because they use wheelchairs instead of conventional ambulation for mobility the writers imply we should say, “Aw, how sad.” The proper term for these individuals is not wheelchair-bound. They are not bound to their wheelchairs. Their wheelchairs provide them with mobility. They are wheelchair users.
In the future, please leave outdated attitudes and unnecessary pity out of the articles.
disability & accessibility consultant