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That Person in a Wheelchair Just Stood Up - It's a Miracle!

Author: Thomas C. Weiss

Contact : Disabled World

Published: 2013-02-26 - (Updated: 2020-02-06)


A number of forms of disabilities find people retaining some level of ability to stand despite the fact that you may very well see them using a wheelchair.

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Main Digest

The fact that I use a cane on occasion does not mean that I must go everywhere with my cane. People who use walkers, scooters, or wheelchairs are not people who are chained to them. People sit in recliners or on couches and sleep in beds; people do not spend 100% of their time in the wheelchairs they use.

Yesterday while looking through responses to articles on the Internet, I chanced upon a comment by a person who posted their belief that because they saw a person who uses a wheelchair standing in a grocery aisle to reach for an item on a shelf it must be a miracle they witnessed. My first thought was, "how ignorant." Many people experience forms of disabilities and use assistive equipment, yet still have the ability to stand up.

If you encounter me in one of these stores as I use a wheelchair you will indeed witness me standing up to reach for something off of one of the shelves. Try not to drop your jaw in shock; I am simply a person doing his shopping. No miracle, just another person in society who has the ability to stand up out of a wheelchair for a moment to reach for something located on a store shelf.

White T-shirt with purple writing saying - I can stand up. It's a miracle!
White T-shirt with purple writing saying - I can stand up. It's a miracle!

A number of forms of disabilities find people retaining some level of ability to stand, despite the fact that you may very well see them using a wheelchair.

Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS)

One form of disability a person may experience that may find them using a wheelchair, yet also find them with some ability to stand up is, 'Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia syndrome (POTS).' Standing up is something many people simply take for granted because they have been doing it since they were children. A person's body automatically adjusts to the pull of gravity by increasing their heart rate, vascular tone, and cardiac output. Their heart rate increases, their blood vessels contract, and their systolic blood pressure remains the same or slightly decreases as their diastolic pressure increases somewhat. A person's body operates in perfect homeostasis as they stand with minimal effort.

For some people, the act of simply standing up can be a challenge. There are disorders that affect a person's bodily ability to appropriately adjust to the pull of gravity. When a person's body cannot effectively adjust to an upright posture they are said to have, 'orthostatic intolerance (OI).' POTS is a disorder that is characterized by orthostatic intolerance.

OI is a condition in which an excessively reduced volume of blood returns to a person's heart after they stand up. The main symptom of OI is lightheadedness or fainting. In POTS, the lightheadedness or fainting is also accompanied by a rapid increase in the person's heartbeat of greater than 30 beats per minute, or a heart rate that exceeds 120 beats per minute within 10 minutes. The faintness or lightheadedness of POTS are relieved by sitting or lying down.

Anyone at any age can develop POTS, although most of the people affected, around 70-80%, are women between the ages of 15 and 50 years of age. Some women have reported an increase of episodes of POTS right before their menstrual periods. POTS many times starts after a major surgery, pregnancy, a viral illness, or trauma. It might make a person unable to exercise because the activity brings on dizziness or fainting spells.

Medical science is not sure what causes the reduced return of blood to a person's heart that happens in OI, or why a person's heart starts to beat so rapidly in POTS. Current thought is that there are several mechanisms involved. Some people have peripheral denervation or, 'neuropathic POTS.' Other have symptoms that are due to sustained or, 'parosyxmal,' over-activity of their sympathetic nervous system referred to as, 'hyperadrenergic POTS.' Still others have POTS that is dominated by features of de-conditioning.

One thing is certain - people who experience forms of OI or POTS and use wheelchairs may very well be able to stand for short periods of time; for example - to reach for an item off of the shelf in a grocery store before sitting back down. The effort might very well find them resting prior to wheeling down the aisle and continuing their shopping. No, 'miracle,' is being witnessed, simply a person in society who is doing their shopping.

Cerebral Palsy

'Cerebral Palsy,' is a more or less blanket term that is commonly referred to as, 'CP,' and describes a loss or impairment of a person's motor functioning. Cerebral Palsy is actually caused by brain damage caused by a brain injury or abnormal development of a person's brain that happens while a child's brain is still developing. Cerebral Palsy affects a person's muscle control, body movement, reflex, muscle tone, balance and posture. The disability may also affect a person's gross and fine motor skills and oral motor functioning.

A person with cerebral palsy will most likely show some signs of physical impairment. The type of movement dysfunction; however, as well as the extent of their impairment, the location and number of limbs involved, will vary between people. Cerebral palsy can affect a person's legs, arms, and face; it may affect one limb, several limbs, or all of them.

Cerebral Palsy affects a person's muscles and their ability to control them. The person's muscles may contract too much, too little, or all at the same time. Their limbs may be stiff and forced into awkward or painful positions. Fluctuating muscle contractions can make their limbs shake, tremble, or writhe. The disability can affect their posture, balance, and coordination. Tasks including sitting, walking, or tying shoes can be difficult for some people with cerebral palsy; others may have difficulty with grasping objects. Additional complications can include seizures, intellectual impairment, hearing or vision impairment.

Many people with cerebral palsy use wheelchairs and do indeed do their own grocery shopping. A friend of mine has cerebral palsy and she does have the ability to stand up to reach for an item from a grocery store shelf, although it is very tiring to do so and she sits back down in her wheelchair after doing so. Once again - no miracle, just a person in society doing her grocery shopping.


Osteoarthritis is a form of arthritis that features the breakdown and eventually the loss of cartilage in one or more of a person's joints. Cartilage is a protein substance that serves as a, 'cushion,' between a person's bones in their joints. Osteoarthritis is the most common form of over 100 different types of arthritis and affects more than 25 million people in America alone. Osteoarthritis before the age of 45 occurs more commonly in males. After the age of 55, it is more common in females.

Osteoarthritis affects a person's feet, spine, hands, and large weight-bearing joints such as the knees and hips. The form of arthritis usually has no known cause and is referred to as, 'primary osteoarthritis.' When the cause of osteoarthritis is known the condition is referred to as, 'secondary osteoarthritis.' Every person with osteoarthritis is different. While stiffness and pain might prevent one person from performing simple daily activities, others with the condition, may be able to maintain an active lifestyle, to include sports or other activities. Performing daily activities such as household chores, personal hygiene, or cooking may be challenging for some.

Primary osteoarthritis, or osteoarthritis that is not the result of an injury or disease, is most likely a result of natural aging of a person's joint. With aging, the water content of the person's cartilage increases and the protein makeup of their cartilage degenerates. Over time, their cartilage starts to degenerate by flaking, or forming tiny crevasses. In advanced osteoarthritis there is a complete loss of cartilage between the bones of a person's joints.

Repetitive use of the worn joints over time may inflame or irritate the cartilage and cause swelling and joint pain. Loss of cartilage causes friction between the bones and leads to pain and limitation of joint mobility. Inflammation of the cartilage may also stimulate new bone outgrowths referred to as, 'spurs,' or, 'osteophytes,' around the person's joints. Osteoarthritis may occasionally develop in multiple family members, implying a hereditary basis for the condition.

As someone who experiences osteoarthritis, I have used a wheelchair in some of the, 'big box,' stores because they are so expansive. Getting around these types of stores, which have floors that are basically linoleum tile on top of cement, is very hard on the joints in my feet, ankles, and knees. A wheelchair spares a lot of wear and tear on my joints.

Disability Awareness

Educating people regarding disabilities and giving people the knowledge required to carry out a job or task thus separating good practice from poor. It is no longer enough just to know that disability discrimination is unlawful. For example people with hidden disabilities are caught between not being fully accepted as people without disabilities, and not being recognized as having "real" disabilities. Disability etiquette are guidelines dealing specifically with how to approach people with disabilities and were initially created to challenge social conventions rather than to reinforce them. Most disability etiquette guidelines seem to be predicated on a simple dictate: "Do not assume..."

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