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Perspectives on Medical Ethics Browse

Reaction to the Phrase “Wheelchair-Bound”


JOAN RINGELHEIM: Now, some people say “wheelchair bound.”

HARRIET MCBRYDE JOHNSON: Oh, that’s one I cannot abide.

JOAN RINGELHEIM: Why don’t you explain?

HARRIET MCBRYDE JOHNSON: Well, as I was saying before, I love wheelchairs, and can you imagine how confined or bound I would be if I didn’t have one, and I had to be, you know, toted in people’s arms all the time or, you know, dragged around in a sedan chair? So that particular language really gets my goat because my own grandmother, before she died, needed a wheelchair for about two years, and she says, “I’m not ready to be wheelchair bound.” And as a result, she stayed in her bed most of the time. You know, she didn’t want that label, even knowing me. And I have seen that a lot with newly disabled people. You know, “I’m not ready to be wheelchair bound,” when if they would just go with it, it would be an easy way for them to move from place to place and to continue living their lives.

Harriet McBryde Johnson speaks about the use of the phrase "wheelchair-bound."