I am always taken aback that people still use the expression "wheelchair-bound" to refer to wheelchair users. Particularly when it comes from the media, who should by now know better. I know this expression has been in use for a long time, but it has also been frowned upon by people for a long time. I don’t believe in being Policitically Correct just for the sake of it. I do believe that language has power.
For years, during the disability awareness trainings I gave, I’d use the example of "wheelchair-bound" during the section on "disability language". I would point out that I’m not tied to my wheelchair, but that if I were, I hope it would be in a kinky situation. I’d pause, and grin. Some in the audience got the joke immediately. Others took a bit longer. It was a good way to tell people it’s ok to laugh at ourselves, even if we have a disability.
The thing is, the expression "wheelchair-bound" evokes images of limitations. It is a very negative way to describe wheelchair users. As if because we use a wheelchair, we are so limited as to be unable to do anything.
When in fact, the wheelchair is a tool of freedom. Without the wheelchair, then we are in major trouble and truly limited. With the chair, we’re not bound, we’re free. Some of my friends will gladly testify that I can go faster than them when we go for a stroll, zipping around.
I picture “wheelchair-bound” as somebody who likes jumping off 4-story buildings.
Yeah, that guy’s headed for a wheelchair, if he survives the trip!
So there you are, next time you’re thinking about using the expression "wheelchair-bound", think again, and consider what you’re really wanting to say!