“Why would you even bother” her statement was more matter of fact than argument “he’s gonna get places quicker and have more fun if we’re pushing him in his chair”.
“Yeah, it wouldn’t be, like, easy, it’d be hard and you’d still need help” came another observation from one of the boys.
You see the question had been posed from a classmate:
“Will Mac ever be able to walk?”
Mac’s first response (with his switches) to that question was a swift “no”, and on further enquiry as to whether this “bothered him” another clear “no” response.
More comments, more discussion … the consensus was that, ultimately, “walking really isn’t all that important” the important thing was getting where you want with who you want (aka mobility).
If only more people would listen to the wisdom of 10 and 11 year olds. How great for Mac to be involved in a discussion that ultimately determines that his way of existing is not only OK, it is totally authentic and not considered ‘less’.
Sure, there was some talk about Mac getting to drive his own wheelchair, what might be needed, how they can help that happen, what needs to be invented to make it better (of course robotics came up ;-) ) … but all that is about Mac being empowered, it’s not ‘dissing’ his current mode of mobility.
It is so refreshing to see these kids really think through what it is they are talking about, really think.
So much of our society can be quite superficial about these things, like walking is some amazingly necessary skill, or a prerequisite for a worthwhile life.
Mainstream media and social media got all excited about the opening ceremony of the Football World Cup having a paralysed man use an exoskeleton to walk and kick a ball – it was all a bit weird and ‘icky’ – I am glad Mac and his mates say “why bother?”
Sure, there may be some people out there who are unable to walk and really want to, I respect that. I just don’t think we need to perpetuate a damaging message that walking is some sort of ‘Holy Grail’ for all people who use wheelchairs.
I don’t hate the technological advances that come of these ventures – who knows what may come of them? We may finally end up building better wheelchairs where steps, gutters and raised thresholds soon become no obstacle. Chairs might be able to become more compact, more comfortable and well, while you’re at it … could we perhaps make them ‘hover’?
In the meantime, I’ll continue to listen to the wisdom of kids.
As I was digging around for a suitable image to use in this post, I came across Red Nicholson’s post over at Attitude Live.
Red nails it – have a read.