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Yes, ambulatory wheelchair users exist—and aren’t ‘faking’ when they use aids

annieelainey/Twitter (Fair Use) Remix by Samantha Grasso

Twitter users who can stand but still need aids want you to know that they’re thriving.

In Tennessee last week, video captured a 10-year-old boy who uses a wheelchair standing up for the national anthem. It was a story that went viral for what appeared to be a miraculous feat (or, as Fox News put it, for his determination “to show his patriotism”).

However, YouTuber and advocate Annie Segarra tweeted that she “clenche[d] to the ground in rage” over the story, adding the hashtag #AmbulatoryWheelchairUsersExist.

So, no, it wasn’t a rarity that someone using a wheelchair could stand or walk. Some people are ambulatory wheelchair users, Segarra’s tweet asserted, and while they might have the ability to move without their wheelchair, they may need other mobility aids while doing so, such as a cane, and may not be able to move for long periods of time without their chair.

Hours later, Segarra tweeted about her own experience as an ambulatory wheelchair user, writing that she uses her wheelchair for “anything longer than a minute or so,” so regardless of using her cane, her ability to walk is “on a timer.” She uses her wheelchair for symptoms of Ehlers–Danlos syndrome—a group of connective tissue disorders—including chronic pain, dysautonomia, and injury prevention and aid.

Segarra also encouraged other ambulatory wheelchair users to share their stories with the same hashtag in order to raise awareness for the diversity within disabilities—their limited abilities don’t negate physical disability, and that those with physical disabilities may not always require a wheelchair or powerchair.

Some people said they only need their wheelchairs for longer periods of standing and walking, such as in lines at airports and grocery stores, and use other mobility aids around the house or while moving other shorter distances.

And some use their wheelchair daily, though they can walk short distances with the use of another mobility device.

Others can move for longer periods of time but need a wheelchair or other mobility devices for bigger events, or when they’re experiencing symptoms.

Segarra wrote that though she’s covered the topic of ambulatory wheelchair users in her work, she felt that seeing everyone “self-advocating for their fluid and diverse disabilities on here is so affirming and I hope we’re that much closer to our existence being known, visible, and respected.”

Segarra did not immediately return the Daily Dot’s request for comment.

Samantha Grasso

Samantha Grasso

Samantha Grasso is a former IRL staff writer for the Daily Dot with a reporting emphasis on immigration. Her work has appeared on Los Angeles Magazine, Death And Taxes, Revelist, Texts From Last Night, Austin Monthly, and she has previously contributed to Texas Monthly.