Sunday, July 10th, 2016 10:58 pm
The Sad Anime Wheelchair Girl (who may not actually be a girl, or in an anime, but that's where I've seen it most) is in a manual wheelchair with handlebars of the sort used in hospitals. She is either a paraplegic or just "sick". Her personality is quiet, passive, and emotionally sensitive. She is quietly melancholy about her disability but tries to keep her spirits up.

She's got complete control over her arms so definitely isn't quadraplegic etc. She has no cognitive issues. She is slow and weak and sickly even when there isn't anything wrong with her canonically asides from paraplegia. She never has a power wheelchair but uses other people to push her around long distances or even by default. Her situation is not shown as changing or improving no matter how long she is in the chair.

This is not how things work! Paraplegics are, in general, just as energetic as able bodied people. They have elegant streamlined wheelchairs that look very different to the sorts used in hospitals, and incredibly strong arms. And those wheelchair users who can't push themselves around very energetically or at all are much more likely to use a power wheelchair than get someone else to push them around. The only long term manual wheechair users I've seen rely entirely on other people were those too cognitively impaired to control a power chair. There may be other circumstances I'm not aware of but it certainly isn't the default, and I have seen manual wheelchair users complain about all of this.

The question I have as a fanartist is: do I draw such characters in the impractical hospital chair as in canon? If so, do I also include someone to push them around if canon does that too? Do I draw them moving themselves around in a cute little manual chair? Or do I put them in a power wheelchair?

For characters who are very clearly described as JUST paraplegic in canon, and don't get pushed around by others consistently, I am inclined to go for the cute manual chair.

But right now I'm considering a character who's just described as "sick" in the canon I've seen, is shown being pushed by someone else, and whose backstory includes the fact they have trouble moving around independently. The series wiki says they're paraplegic due to an accident but I guess they could have shoulder injuries or comorbidity. The art I'm planning on drawing is set after canon, so I'm pondering if I just headcanon them getting a power chair after canon. Sickliness and general physical weakness DOESN'T go hand in hand with paraplegia, but if someone is shown as sickly and physically weak then it feels weird to erase that.

(nb this is all for canons set now or in the future, obviously it's ok not to have power wheelchairs in canons set in the 19th century etc. Could still do with a wider variety of personalities and less handwavy symptoms though)
Sunday, July 10th, 2016 05:30 pm (UTC)
It's anime! Have V.P.A.G (Vaguely Para Anime Girl) bedeck her chair with all sorts of kawaii swag! A mini-wind sock, or pinwheel, that spins as she rolls hither and yon, a clip-on water bottle holder in the shape of a panda! etc.

Oh, and just a note:

The only long term manual wheelchair users I've seen rely entirely on other people were those too cognitively impaired to control a power chair.

In my experience (which, granted, is limited to my just my own lifetime), those deemed "too cognitively impaired" for motorized wheels have largely been nonverbal, which get (mis)diagnosed as cognitive impairment.

Given how expensive motorized chairs are, and how 99% of mobility tech assessments depend on in-person interviews, asking detailed questions that require nuanced answers, it's very hard to get the right chair match if you're nonverbal, so folks end up in manuals as their best option.
Edited (closed a tag) 2016-07-10 10:12 pm (UTC)
Monday, July 11th, 2016 02:07 pm (UTC)
Yes. The erasure of the Elderly as members of the Disability Community is a real problem.

For one thing, the fact that they're not recognized as "Disabled," makes it hard to get the wider culture to accept the idea that disability and disabled people are a natural aspect of the Human Condition.

And for anther (and most important) thing, it interferes with the elderly getting access to services and adaptive technology that could greatly improve their quality of life -- over the span of several decades, in some cases (including, but not limited to, the internalized ableism that makes people resistant to "giving up and getting a wheelchair," for example).

But it also underlines my point that the cultural construct of "Disability" has less to do with issues of capacity vs. impairment than it does with whether or not a person's individual physical and/or mental traits triggers a glitch in our learned mind mapping system.

... ya know?
Edited (fixed grammar) 2016-07-11 02:09 pm (UTC)
Friday, July 15th, 2016 08:12 pm (UTC)
It's really one of my pet peeves.

There are some lines from the opening of "A Winter's Tale" (Shakespeare, not the fantasy novel by wassisname), to the effect of:

Person A: "The prince is so wonderful, he's even inspiring people who go on crutches to find a reason to live until he becomes king."

Person B: ... I'm pretty sure, if there were no prince, those on crutches would desire to live until a prince were born.

And I got squeeful about it to someone online, pointing out: (paraphrased) "hey, look! People knew disabled people existed as far back as 400 years ago, and that your argument "better dead than disabled" was BS even then.

And this someone said: Well, Shakespeare didn't mean "disabled people" -- he just meant "old people."

I wasn't up for arguing, 'cause the clueless factor was massive.

But old people who go on crutches are still people who go on crutches!
Sunday, July 10th, 2016 07:24 pm (UTC)
Excellent rant.
Monday, July 11th, 2016 03:36 pm (UTC)
You're welcome.
Monday, July 11th, 2016 03:58 am (UTC)
Yes! I was so pleased when the artists drawing Oracle over in DC comics obviously started talking with (or at least googling) wheelchair users, because her chairs suddenly became appropriate for someone with her level of mobility.

Does the character have a particular attachment to her chair in canon? If not, I think you should either draw a more appropriate manual chair for her canon-specified needs or stick with the canon-specified inability to push herself and go for a power chair. I think this is a characterisation decision that is just as relevant as changes to make a superhero's costume more practical and useful, or culturally appropriate.