Recognizing the importance of International Wheelchair Day

March 1 used to recognize the millions of people worldwide who use a wheelchair

Ashlie Fanetti

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Photo by As

This is me, wheelchair and all, celebrating International Wheelchair Day on March 1.

I’m going to be honest, I hate holidays. 

No, not the big ones like Christmas, Thanksgiving and Easter, but the unofficial ones like National Pizza Day, National Splurge Day, etc. 

I am fully convinced these are just made-up holidays people use as an excuse to do things they wouldn’t normally do like eat an entire pizza by themselves or buy a Gucci belt. 

I’ve just never seen the point in celebrating them, except for one — International Wheelchair Day.

There are 7,091,500,000 people in the world, and approximately 131,800,000 or 1.85% require a wheelchair.

International Wheelchair Day, celebrated March 1, is a day for “people to celebrate the positive impact that wheelchairs have on their lives and raise awareness about how people who use wheelchairs move through and involve themselves in their communities.”

I love the idea behind this day because it recognizes a marginalized community I feel is often forgotten and not represented enough. 

The holiday is also near and dear to my heart because I am part of the 1.85% of people who use a wheelchair. It is a struggle every day, but days like March 1 remind me I am not alone in my struggles even though I often feel as though I am.

I personally use International Wheelchair Day to reflect on my relationship with my own wheelchair, and every year I begin to appreciate it a little more.

I know what you’re thinking, how do you have a relationship with an inanimate object?

Well, allow me to explain.

My frenemy 

My wheelchair is something I like to consider as my frenemy.

It is my friend in the way that it gives me mobility and a sense of independence I could only dream of having before it came into my life. It has allowed me to do things I could never do without it. 

On the other hand, though, it is my enemy because it’s my biggest insecurity which I’ve struggled with my whole life.

The worst part about it is, I can’t change it.

I’m insecure about a lot of things: my face, my body, my clothes, etc. I can change these things. I can put makeup on, buy new clothes and change my body. 

My biggest insecurity though is one I cannot change. I can’t ditch the wheelchair, no matter how much I wish I could.

Whenever I express these feelings, most people react by saying something along the lines of  “Ashlie, you’re a beautiful, normal girl, you have nothing to be insecure about.”

Okay, but if I’m so normal why do people do a double-take behind my back when they see me in public?

Why do I have to call ahead every time I want to go somewhere? Why do I have to leave stores frustrated that I can’t get around or reach anything?

If I’m so beautiful, why don’t I ever see anybody who looks like me on a billboard or a movie?

I could go on and on, but you see why I might struggle to believe what people tell me. Normal and beautiful people don’t have to deal with any of this, so why do I?

The only answer I can think of is the wheelchair.

I can’t change my biggest insecurity, all I can do is accept it as a part of me. I try to do that every day, even though it’s hard sometimes. 

My relationship with my wheelchair is a work in progress, but hopefully one day I can accept it, and turn my frenemy into just a friend. 

This International Wheelchair Day I embraced my wheelchair along with so many others, and I will continue to do so every time March 1 rolls around.

I might not like unofficial holidays, but I love celebrating this one.

Fanetti can be reached at [email protected]