You Can Walk And Still Need A Wheelchair

(NOTE: Based on time elapsed since the posting of this entry, the BS-o-meter calculates this is 10.854% likely to be something that Ferrett now regrets.)

I’m lucky enough to have infinite steps.  I don’t even count ’em when I wake up in the morning: I take the dog out for a walk, and my legs keep working for as long as I want ’em to.  I go to the museum and I pay no attention to the distance between galleies.  However many steps I need to take, they’re just there.
Most of you don’t even think that’s a blessing.  Trust me, it is.
Some of my friends have zero steps: their legs stopped working.  They’re “traditionally” disabled, because their muscles or their nerves don’t respond, and no amount of effort can get them walking.  It sucks, and sucks hard, but at least that step count is predictable.
Unlike my friends who play the Step Lottery every day:  How many steps do they get before their body gives out?
That variance is huge.  Some days, they’ve got so many steps they can walk everywhere and have steps left over at the end of the day.  Other days, they get a paltry thousand and give out in the middle of the grocery store.
And they don’t have some magical step gauge that counts down to zero: they wake up, they feel great, and they only discover today’s Step Lottery gifted ’em a slim 500 steps  when they’re halfway to Wal-Mart.
Wherever they give out, they’re done.   It’s like an old D&D wizards’ spell; they’re not getting any more steps until they’ve rested for eight hours.
And when you run out of steps three blocks from home, you’re fucking screwed.  If you didn’t have the energy to walk, you sure as hell don’t have the energy to crawl.  So if you’re lucky, you sit on a bench for hours and hope your body somehow considers it restful.
If you’re not lucky, you’re stuck there until a friend picks you up.
If you’re really not lucky, you don’t have a friend.  Hope you can afford a cab!
When able-bodied people see a wheelchair, they think “That person can never walk.”  And if they see that person getting up out of the wheelchair, they often think, “That person’s cheating!  They’re not really disabled!  They were fooling me!”
Nope.  That wheelchair is their insurance against the Step Lottery.  Because they can walk now, but at some point during the day their body is all but guaranteed to give out on them… and it’s a hell of a lot easier to bring the wheelchair when you don’t need it than it is to be wheelchair-less when you do need it.
They’re not fooling you at all, buddy.  Their bodies slip between “walking” and “not walking” with frightening speed, and they can’t predict when that wheelchair is going to be the only thing that gets them home today.  So be gentle.


  1. Luna
    Apr 6, 2016

    Thank you. There’s days where I still have to remind *myself* I’m not “cheating” too. But nobody wants to be behind me when I’m trying to walk with the forearm crutch; it’s waaay slow. 🙂 Not to mention, risking a fall. Better I use the wheelchair outside the house.

  2. Jordan
    Apr 6, 2016

    Thank you. I am posting this response from my wheelchair, sitting in downtown Tacoma, waiting for the second of three busses to get me to my destination. I’m headed to Seattle. By car, this trip would take me approximately 45 minutes, provided traffic didn’t suck. By public transit? Two and a half hours. So why would I do this? Why “waste” so much time? Because I have no choice. I play the step lottery every day, and if I were to crap out in Seattle, with no way to get back to my car (my car which, I might add, doesn’t have room for my wheelchair, as wheelchair vans are prohibitively expensive), I would be completely and utterly screwed. Far better to budget five hours of my day for transit than to risk being stranded in Seattle, within sight of my car but unable to reach it….

  3. Tibicina
    Apr 7, 2016

    There are other possibilities, too, like severe plantar fasciitis – sure you /can/ walk, but every step hurts. There are balance problems which mean every unsupported step in a row is a chance to fall. There are a bunch of other syndromes and diseases like that which make walking painful or dangerous, even though it is technically /possible/.

  4. Judy Norwood
    Apr 13, 2016

    I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis on Thanksgiving Day 1991. How appropriate for the 8 year search. At least it was no longer my imagination, trying to get drugs or just trying to get attention. Now I’ve finally realized after 25 years that everyone has a personal battle to overcome. It could be anything! Mental, physical or just the inability to cope with everyday life. Now I FINALLY realize that it’s not about me at all but about dealing with your God given circumstances. The lesson that each and every one of us needs to do is to not fight what God chose for each of us, just learn how to cope with it and do my best to say thank you for all the years with MS & not allow my Rollater be my obstable rather than my helper.

  5. Lara Moebs
    Apr 23, 2016

    Thank you for finding the words to describe how it feels to be walking along fine and then, suddenly, to be barely able to breathe because the pain is so severe not to mention to be unable to take another step because the nerves just won’t listen to the signals you’re brain is sending. I was diagnosed both MS and Fibromylagia since 2000, and I’m too bleeping stubborn to let myself get a handicapped plate, but there are days that my step lottery, which is usually good for miles, only lasts from the bed to the bathroom…


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