Some wheelchair users have no ability to stand or walk at all.
Everybody knows this.
But did you know that many people who need a wheelchair can stand and walk?
Why would someone with the ability to walk choose to use a wheelchair?
There are many reasons:
My condition is variable, but on a good/average day I can walk about 10 metres before my POTS (heart rate/blood flow problems) kicks in with a vengeance, and I get increasingly light-headed, fatigued and uncoordinated - with the result that my walking deteriorates rapidly and by about 15m I'm staggering. If I try and push myself further I am likely to crumple to the floor with stroke-like symptoms that can take hours to recover from.
In addition my over-flexible joints are difficult to control. I do hours of exercise every week, and spend much of my day using my limited energy to keep them in good positions so I strengthen rather than injure or stretch them. Using muscles whenever I can is vital to managing my condition. But on the flip side, attempting to do things when I'm highly fatigued or am very uncoordinated due to POTS will almost certainly result in injury (or I'll just totally fail to complete the task.)
The result is that I usually have a safe walking distance of between 0 and 10m depending on the day.
Can you imagine trying to live within that 10m radius?
How far is your work from where you park your car?
How far are the bathrooms from your work area?
How far from the railway station entrance to the platform?
From the nearest parking space of a supermarket, to the bread aisle, then the checkouts?
To your friends front door from the road?
To the restaurant from the carpark?
What about your kitchen to your bathroom?
Visiting pretty much any park, museum, beach, or cinema would exceed 10m.
The reality is that if I had to rely solely on my legs I would have to:
Close my business and stop work
Stop using public transport
Stop living alone - and probably have full time carers
Stop visiting friends
Stop going to church
Stop going to the park with my nephews and nieces
I would effectively become stuck within my home - and not even be able to get between rooms sometimes. And on top of that, be unable to manage my conditions effectively.
Add to that the fact that prolonged sitting can also cause problems with my pelvis and my blood flow. Even if I'm not well enough to walk at all, holding something so I can stand up and wiggle (or moving to somewhere I can lie down and wiggle) is something I have to do periodically throughout the day.
So next time you see someone stand up out of their wheelchair, or even walk away from their wheelchair, remember that it doesn't mean that they are faking it, it means that their ability to walk is limited.