Earlier this evening, I was told by a friend during a phone conversation that there was now a character in a wheelchair in the Harry Potter mobile game.
I was simultaneously delighted, curious, and slightly suspicious. This news would have meant the world to my ten-year-old self, but given my previous experience with J. K. Rowling’s statements regarding inclusion, I proceeded with caution.
After some research, I found that the character’s name was Murphy McNully, that he spread a positive message about being more than just a wizard in a wheelchair- much as I do here- and that he acted as the commentator for Quidditch games. He also could not sit on the floor, and could therefore not play a game of gobstones, but he could sit outside of his chair for meals (and meals only).
While the mentioned scenarios might not necessarily present a problem for me- I can transfer to and from different chairs and things, as well as the floor, with the right circumstances- they are not inclusive of the experience of non-ambulatory wheelchair users. This is putting aside the fact that I generally prefer to be in my wheelchair anyway, due to the freedom it provides. Just play gobstones at a table. Put up a barrier to keep them from rolling off if you want! Just. Play. At. A table. There are solutions to this problem! While I have never played gobstones myself, I have been in comparable situations.
In any case, I have questions:
Will this be retroactively fixed in a way that involves insinuating that Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry was wheelchair accessible the whole time and I just didn’t notice? Because I find that offensive on multiple levels.
Will Murphy be our one token piece of representation? A known to be not-great strategy.
Will any previously known characters be revealed to have been wheelchair users all along? Don’t love this approach either.
Why was this never addressed in the books, even in passing? There’s a hundred kids per year in total, times seven, so there had to have been somebody; wheelchairs and their users aren’t new.
At this point, while I appreciate the sentiment, the current execution and the worldbuilding at large do not seem to back up the assertion that the experiences of people like me are welcome ones at Hogwarts.
Here’s the sentence where I get sarcastic: Can’t wait for J. K. Rowling to tell me that actually, all of the stairs could turn into ramps the entire time and I just wasn’t clever enough to read between the lines and figure it out. (Yes, I know the ones to the Gryffindor girls’ dormitory turns into a steep slide to keep boys out. That doesn’t help here.It’s clearly effective at its job, and if it’s too steep for someone to walk up, then there’s no way in the whole wide Wizarding World that I’d be able to manage it in my chair, let alone safely.) In case this doesn’t end up being the retroactive solution, please don’t tell me that I have to depend on other people to levitate me up the stairs- I trust no one to do it, and would infinitely prefer a way to get around the school on my own.
In spite of there being pages upon pages of character backstory that never explicitly made its way into the books, even for minor characters, in order to help with writing them in a three-dimensional, fully-realized way, it appears based on worldbuilding that none of those characters was ever one in a chair. They all would’ve had to go through Hogwarts. I refuse to believe that in the long and storied history of the school, all of the students were able-bodied.
I’m crossing my fingers that this will be addressed respectfully. I won’t let my hopes get too high though. I know better.