Why The Phrase "Wheelchair-Bound" Doesn't Sit Well With Me

Pardon the pun. I ask you to please bear in mind that everyone has different language preferences; I can only really speak for myself, but, no person I have ever met prefers wheelchair-bound. So. On we go.

I would like to start by saying that I, personally, have no seatbelt on my chair. There is nothing holding me in here but my own questionable core strength and possibly a bit of good luck. I am literally bound neither to nor by my chair.

The reason, when it comes down to it, that the term “wheelchair-bound” and I disagree with each other is that I am in no way restricted by my chair. Restricted by the fact that society at large is not built with me in mind, perhaps- but not by the chair. Without my chair, the accessibility of public spaces would still be limited for me, only I would also have to expend more time and energy navigating them.

It is simply not an accurate term. Even if I was secured in my chair in some way, I would still not be bound by it, in the same way that people are not bound or pitied in any way by their use of a car to travel long distances- whether they are wearing a seatbelt or not. My wheelchair, much like our hypothetical car, is simply a tool to be used to get from one place to another without expending a ridiculous amount of energy.

The wheelchair represents freedom in the way a first car might- I am able to get places on my own terms, without expending the extra effort required by other methods. I can also carry more stuff, which is not a benefit one necessarily considers when acquiring a car, but this is MY metaphor and I can do what I want with it.

Hopefully, this explanation makes you a little more familiar with this particular piece of language. If you’re looking for terms to use instead, try wheelchair user or uses a wheelchair.

Example sentences:

“Gwen uses a wheelchair.”

“They are a wheelchair user.”