The general perception of wheelchair users is that we are people with chronic medical conditions. In short, we are considered patients. That is furthest away from the truth. Wheelchair users are people who employ a different mode of ambulation. Instead of using our legs to walk, we move around on wheelchairs. That is the only stark difference.
There have been cases where wheelchair users accompanying friends to hospitals were misconstrued by the nurses and doctors as people seeking medical attention. Likewise, I have experienced the same dilemma when accompanying my late mother to the hospital for her checkups.
While this is not a major issue, it is discomforting that society at large still sees wheelchair users with such mindsets. At a recent meeting regarding accessible public transport, there were suggestions to request for bus routes to specifically serve institutions for disabled persons and hospitals.
That is another misconception. Not all disabled persons live in institutions. Many live in the community. That is how it should be. At the same time, accessible buses should not only serve routes to hospitals. That should not be a priority but included as one of the routes.
True, many need to go to hospitals for regular checkups but that is not a major activity for disabled persons. It is more important that we are able to commute to work or school conveniently. Additionally, we also like to enjoy leisure activities such as trips to the malls or parks.
There are still a lot of misconceptions regarding disabilities and disabled persons. It is not totally the fault of society. Disabled persons themselves are the best advocate of change in such matters. By living in the community, we can gradually eliminate fallacies, build bridges and create an inclusive society where everyone is treated with respect and dignity.