Tuesday, September 03, 2013

Overweight People in Wheelchairs or Scooters

[Note: This is aimed primarily at people outside the disability community. Most of this stuff should be familiar to many disabled people and their supporters.]

Many people are unable to walk, and use wheelchairs or scooters to get around. There are also many people who can walk - at least a few steps - but with difficulty. If their walking is poor enough to seriously impede their everyday living, a wheelchair or scooter can make a big difference to their lives. Even if a person can walk, if they don't have the endurance to walk as much as most people do in an average day, or if they often suffer falls causing serious injury, they still need a wheelchair or scooter.

A manual wheelchair requires that the person grab the wheels and push them. It can be used by someone with good upper body strength (such as a person with a spinal injury low enough to leave the arms unaffected). Some people do not have the strength or coordination to use a manual wheelchair, even if they can use their hands for other tasks. Some people can use a manual chair, but don't have the endurance to use it all day. Those people can use a motorized wheelchair or a scooter if they need to do a lot of traveling.

For the most parts, motorized wheelchairs and scooters do the same sort of thing. Both are mobility aids that allow a person to get around without having to stand up and walk. A scooter is more often used by people who can walk short distances, because it's easier to get in and out of than a wheelchair. However, it can often be more a matter of personal preference than type of disability, and some people use both wheelchairs and scooters at different times. Many people tend to react differently to a wheelchair as opposed to a scooter, but in reality there is not much difference between them.

People who use wheelchairs or scooters have the same variety of features as people without disabilities. Some are short, some are tall. Some have blond hair, some have darker hair. And they can range in weight just as much as non-disabled people do, for the same reasons. In many cases, their weight has nothing to do with their disability.

Lifestyle can play a part in weight, but it is far from the only factor. Many medical conditions can cause a person to become overweight, such as hypothyroidism, diabetes, kidney failure, Cushing's disease (affecting the adrenal glands) and many more. Although a few of these conditions can be affected by lifestyle, most are predominantly genetic. In addition, normal variation in genes can also contribute to differences in body weight, with some people naturally predisposed to gain weight more easily. Just because someone is overweight does not necessarily mean they eat too much or get too little exercise. Furthermore, although severe obesity is dangerous to a person's health, many people think someone is somewhat obese when their weight is in fact healthy. Especially for women, our ideals about weight are often unrealistically low, and many people who are considered appropriately skinny are actually endangering their health by being underweight.

In some cases, a person's weight and their mobility impairment may both result from the same medical condition. For example, diabetes can cause a condition known as diabetic neuropathy, which can cause difficulty walking. There are many other examples where a metabolic disorder can cause both weight gain and mobility impairments. In the majority of these cases, the person would still have a mobility impairment if they lost weight.

Inactivity can also contribute to gaining weight. While most people don't exercise as often as they should, for people with mobility impairments, it can be considerably harder to get enough exercise. Due to their disability, they spend most of the day sitting, while other people are walking around. And many people with disabilities need specialized equipment and/or trained personnel to help them exercise, making exercise more expensive and inconvenient for them. (And if an untrained person tries to assist them, this can sometimes result in injury - for example if they try to stretch a limb that can't stretch as much as normal.)

Many people, when they see an overweight person using a scooter, they assume the person is too lazy to walk. But there are many different reasons why a person, overweight or not, may need to use a scooter, and many disabilities are not readily visible, especially if you're not a trained medical professional. You should never assume that you know why a person is using a mobility impairment unless they themselves have told you. And if you're a stranger to them, you have no right to expect them to explain their disability to you.


Blogger Unknown said...

I agree ! Because it must be getting tiring for being beaten for telling the truth...Thanks for post...

4:17 AM  

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