I recently got a new wheelchair built for me and for my physical problems. I've now had it for just about 3 weeks and it's been a miracle worker for me. However, in sharing my photos and excitement I've discovered a rather annoying part of the disabled community – people giving advice to make things lighter.
I've gotten comments like: "Oh wow! With that cushion and that back isn't it super heavy?" followed by "Take off that back and change it out!"
Also "You don't need that kind of cushion! It is terrible for me and heavy! Try this instead!" And "I can't believe people use wheelchairs that heavy! I took everything off mine!"
I'm glad some folks out there are able to use lightweight chairs with almost nothing on them. For me however? My disability affects me in a lot of ways. I've got severe scoliosis as well as unstable joints which affect my spine.
I need a higher back for support, and thanks to the dump in my chair, I am sitting up straight in my wheelchair for the first time ever. My cushion is heaven sent and works wonderfully for me and my physical issues.
Wheelchairs and customization are not one size fits all. There's a reason we go to a PT and OT and Seating Specialists. Not everyone is able to get a bare bones wheelchair because it's not physically safe for everyone. Everyone has different needs and different things they want out of their wheelchairs.
Not only that but making such comments is assuming an awful lot about the person you are commenting to. Do you know about their disability? Do you know what they need out of their wheelchair? Do you know the status of their back and the support they require? No, you don't, unless you live with said person.
There's also a lot of assuming that the said person doesn't know anything about wheelchairs and self-modification.
Finally, there's the fact that these kinds of comments are essentially raining on someone's parade. If someone posts a photo of their wheelchair they aren't asking for you to improve it unless they say they are. They are wanting people to see it and give compliments and congratulations. The wait for a wheelchair is sometimes long and agonizing and they just want to brag. It's like getting a new car. They want to show you their awesome new item!
Please be mindful of your comments and of how you react to someone sharing with you their new mobility aid. This doesn't go just for wheelchairs but any kind of mobility aid.