Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Fat wheeling

I came across this gem of a meme recently on a Facebook group for disabled folks and was instantly livid.  The image shows an elderly white gentleman with round spectacles perched on his nose, a black hat, grey scarf, black coat, and white dress shirt with white text that reads "Back in my day wheelchairs were for disabled people, not fat people."

My first reaction was "wait, WHAT?"  I was led to this spiraling stream of thoughts, from "some people are disabled then become fat" to "why does it matter as long as the person is doing what they can do to help themselves have a life worth living?" 

There are several things going on with this meme, and the first hits on some very real issues with the current "obesity epidemic" panic.  The thought that fatness causes disability, or that fatness is disabling.  They are two separate things.  Some fat people have mobility problems, but so do some tall people.  Some people with mobility impairments become fat for a number of reasons, but many mobility impaired people's weights don't change.  Correlation does not equal causation.

The second is what gets me as a kinesiologist.  If a wheelchair helps a person get through their activities of daily living and maybe even gives them a chance to find joyful (and, dare I say, pain-free or pain-reduced) movement, then USE THE CHAIR!  If a cane allows a person to walk for longer distance, then USE THE CANE!  If your built environment is inaccessible to you with a manual wheelchair, the USE THE SCOOTER (or power chair or whatever else).  Being able to be part of a community, to be as independent as possible, and to be happy are all components of being a healthy person

There are so many people in the disability community that are so caught up in the obesi-panic or are trying to make an artificial delineation between who counts as abled and who counts as disabled....this needs to stop.  Now.  There are so many people in the supposed scientific community that are spouting fat stigma messages that are just contributing to the mental unwellness of fat people (and honestly, creating a panic within disability communities to try to keep disabled kids from getting The Fat).

My walking stick from the ren faire
So, glam up your wheels, glitz up your cane, bedazzle your walker, grab your carved walking stick (mine is in the photo to the right that I purchased four years ago at the Carolina Renaissance's a medium brown wood with green leather wrapping, brass studs, and runes carved in it vertically with the runes for "strength," "balance," and "journey"...might not be in that exact order), and move your body as joyfully as possible.  If you don't believe me, see this post by Ragen of Dances With Fat about fat people in scooters.  Or her post entitled "Bad Fatties on Escalators--A Rant."

Stroll and roll happily :-)

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