Dear Media: Please Stop Saying We Are “Bound to Wheelchairs”

Dear Media:  Please Stop Saying We Are “Bound to Wheelchairs”

How many times do we have to tell you that we are not wheelchair-bound? I know you see the letters, the comments on articles, and Facebook groups whose sole purpose is to help you understand.

Yet over and over again the media insists on using the most dramatic, ablest, and sensational terms when referring to people who happened to have a disability.

“Meet the woman helping wheelchair-bound people dance”:

For TODAY, NBC’s Morgan Radford reports on a woman who wants to help make life a little better for people who are wheelchair bound by giving them the chance to dance.”

‘BEYond excited!’ Wheelchair-bound model with muscular dystrophy stars in Beyonce’s new merchandise campaign

I am sure it helps you sell ad space, as people love a good victim-overcomes-tragedy story, or how an “Inspiration Porn” feature helps make able bodied folks realize just how lucky they are, but this type of angle is offensive and is defeating all the efforts for normalization, integration, and anti-stigmatism we are all working to achieve.  We honestly do not want, nor do we need, the sensationalism.  We just need equal rights, job opportunities, friendship, love, and access.

So, please, stop it.

We use wheelchairs for mobility.  We are not bound to them. That terminology is outdated, and no longer reflects the standards of how we care to be perceived. It does not even meet the professional standards provided in the National Center on Disability and Journalism Style Guide. It is also clearly an attempt to overdramatize, stigmatize, and marginalize who we are as people (even while you are purportedly trying to feature us positively.)

And, while we’re at it, we are also not “victims” of autism, or any of our disabilities.

In case it is still not clearly understood, comprehended, or you just need more clarification of what it is that we’re trying to communicate, here’s a picture to help illustrate the difference.

Here is someone who is clearly BOUND to the wheelchair.

Woman seen bound by tape with words written on tape conveying negative stereotypes about disability

Here is someone who USES a wheelchair.

Blonde woman in yellow wheelchair smiling into camera

So, to the Today Show, and all other media outlets who want to do a positive story about a person with a wheelchair dancing like the fabulous, integrated dance group this story was featuring, doing something noble and exceptional (and no, getting married and getting asked to the prom is not a remarkable accomplishment, so you can also stop patronizing us with these types of stories), creating a remarkable new enterprise, or simply winning the Nobel prize, please remember to be BOUND by what is the morally and factually correct way to describe an entire group of individuals who are trying to overcome pity, fear, and discrimination.

Continuing to use these type of words and descriptions are not helping.

– See more at:

Author: disabledaccessdenied

I am a disabled woman who through no fault of my own has wheels under my ass. I rely on the decency and common sense of local, state and federal goverments, as well as the retail community to abide by the disabled access laws and provide adequate ramps, disabled toilets, and not use them as store rooms or broom closets. This blog exists to find the offenders and out them, inform them, and report them if necessary and shame them into doing the right thing when all else fails.

5 thoughts on “Dear Media: Please Stop Saying We Are “Bound to Wheelchairs””

  1. It’s pretty sad when people think that everyone who uses wheelchairs is supposed to be bound to them when really that’s not always the case. Some people think those who aren’t permanently bound to a wheelchair should not be using them at all, but that goes to show you they don’t know everything, and especially not each one of our conditions. If the shoe were on the other foot, they would clearly understand

      1. I may have been away a while, but I hope you’re all doing OK. Good news about the Kroc Center they backed off and I had hardly any trouble this year. I haven’t been back to Wooster fair yet, it may be a while since I ran into money trouble and my vehicle broke down and will take a while to get it fixed. Just trying to stay within my physical limits

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