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More than 2 million people in the United States depending on a wheelchair for daily mobility. There is a wide number of physical disabilities that may cause a person to use a wheelchair. Some individuals may be able to walk a little and only use a wheelchair because of pain or difficulty due to a physical limitation of some kind. Others may be completely paralyzed with no feeling in their lower extremities. Still others find themselves on a continuum between these two ranges.
Many individuals who use wheelchairs have only a physical disability and their cognitive functioning is not limited in any way. These individuals often go to college and can be found in nearly any profession you can imagine. There are doctors and nurses who use wheelchairs, teachers, scientists, sales personnel, social workers, and the list just goes on. You'll see them in the same career as you making the same salary (or even more depending on the profession).
Interacting With Individuals Using Wheelchairs
If you've never interacted with someone who uses a wheelchair, at first you may find yourself feeling a little uncomfortable and wonder what you are supposed to do. The most important thing to remember is that the person in the wheelchair is just like you, they just get around a little differently. Some tips that may help your interaction go more smoothly includes:
-Treat the wheelchair as a part of the person's body. Just like you wouldn't rest your foot on a stranger's lap, don't prop your feet up on someone's wheelchair.
-Ask before assisting. If you think someone using a wheelchair needs a bit of help, simply ask. Most likely, she/he is used to the question and will either appreciate the help or let you know that they are fine on their own.
-It helps to get down on the wheelchair user's level for an extended conversation. So if you're having a discussion, pull up a chair so you're both at eye level.
-Don't be afraid to use terms like "walk" or "run". They are normal part of conversation and most likely, the disabled person uses this language just as you do.
-If you have a question, ask. It's always better to kindly ask than to assume.
Dating a Person Who Uses a Wheelchair
Dating a person who uses a wheelchair is much like dating anyone else. If you pick her up for the first date, it's alright to ask about how you load the wheelchair in the car. Or if he drives and uses a wheelchair, it's likely that he is able to load and unload the chair without assistance. As always, it never hurts to ask.
Physical intimacy is a question that many people wonder about. Is a person who uses a wheelchair able to have intimate physical relations with their sexual partner? The answer is a resounding yes. There may be differences in how that physical relationship takes place (or maybe not), but those who use wheelchair are sexually active just as you are. Some people who use wheelchairs even choose to get pregnant and have children. Like every other situation, it will be something you talk about to find out specifically in each situation.
Individuals who use wheelchairs are just that, people like you who use a wheelchair for mobility due to a physical impairment of some kind. Some individuals may be paralyzed, others may have limited use of their legs, and others may be able to walk fine, but need to use a wheelchair for comfort. Talk to a wheelchair user just like you would any other person, just make sure to ask before you jump in and offer assistance.
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