Deliberately offensive?


Picture this: A frail shut-in watching a winter scene out a frosted window, illuminated by a single candle on a nightstand. 

Does this sound like the life your patients lead? Not so much. They’re out in the community, working, enjoying their families and living life. So why does the mainstream press persist in using the term “wheelchair-bound” in its coverage of anyone who uses a wheelchair?

I try to keep an eye on news about wheelchairs and scooters around the country, and I see “wheelchair-bound” in headlines nearly every day. Even worse are the headlines that read, “Wheelchair boy receives ramp from local charity.” 

Nope, they’re not talking about a superhero. Wheelchair boy/man/woman/girl is a term these papers actually use to describe people who use wheelchairs.  

This had been bugging me for a while; then today I came across a couple of articles about the awkward and impolite issues around wheelchair use.

National Seating and Mobility tweeted about “5 Awkward Situations Only People in Wheelchairs Face,” including a handshake a wheelchair user couldn’t return that turned into a head pat. Yep. 

The Huffington Post also picked up the article, “Stop Saying 'Wheelchair-Bound' And Other Outdated And Offensive Terms To People With Disabilities.” 

Of course, I’m far from perfect and going too far in the name of political correctness is sometimes worse than being politically incorrect.

But I say “wheelchair-bound” has got to go. It’s so old-fashioned and inaccurate that it’s almost deliberately offensive. It’s also against AP Stylebook rules.