I’m planning to write a sci-fi story where a character is in a futuristic wheelchair on a spaceship. I’m disabled myself and wish I had wheelchair, but haven’t really used one extensively. How would moving in a wheelchair be written differently than walking beyond using “rolled” and “moved” instead of “walked”?


Mod Wolfy

Some of this depends on the type of wheelchair.  For a modern manual wheelchair, you push yourself with your arms, and can generally build up some momentum.  So it’s not like walking where you have to actively take each step – get going, and you can coast along a bit.  All of the physical motion is arms and shoulders.  Ramps need to be fairly shallow, and while it’s often possible to pop a wheelie over a minor obstruction, physical barriers that block rolling need to be thought of and accounted for.  (Although one would hope a futuristic society did better in their accessibility design.). I don’t know much about electric wheelchairs, except that there are controls (generally a joystick, but they can be adapted depending on what kind of motion works best for the person), and they involve a battery.  If you’re going futuristic, you have a lot of leeway with this, but presumably it would need some kind of power source.  

There’s a height difference, which means that unless you get very far away from modern wheelchair designs, the person is going to be lower than most people, which makes a difference in terms of what’s in reaching or grabbing range. And there’d be concerns about turning radius – it varies a bit with the design, but wheelchairs take up more space on the ground, and need more space to turn and maneuver than a walking person.  (A big problem in accessibility design is when people don’t take that into account.)

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