I was scrolling through my Twitter feed last night looking for inspiration for a blog post when a Washington Post headline caught my eye.
Feeling out of shape and fat? Here’s how to fix that: Start walking.
I retweeted the article, which you can read for yourself here. Without reading it, I wrote, “Once again, I’m doomed. #wheelchairproblems”
Feeling a bit guilty for retweeting an article I hadn’t actually read (something I never do) I went back and clicked on the article. Maybe they discussed alternatives for people, like me, who are not able to walk. Perhaps they were inclusive of people of all abilities and I was being hasty in yelling at my monitor about the ableist headline.
I read the article, which describes EverWalk as, “an initiative that aims to get Americans on their feet. Anybody can commit to walking at least three times a week by signing a pledge on EverWalk’s website (at everwalk.com).”
There WAS one mention of disability towards the end of the article. “If you’re in a chair, pledge to do the roll.” That may work for someone who uses a manual wheelchair, but what about someone like me who is no longer able to self-propel a manual chair?
Getting frustrated, I searched the EverWalk website and found lots of photos and encouraging images of people walking. I did not see anyone with an obvious disability. I did not see anyone who looks like me.
So, I did what I have never done. I took to Twitter. I responded to the article tweet, and directly tweeted EverWalk with my main question. What about those of us who care about health and fitness but can’t “just walk?” As of the time I finished writing this Sunday night, I have not heard any response and I really don’t expect to.
I applaud Diana Nyad and Bonnie Stoll, the founders of EverWalk, for wanting to do something to help heart disease and diabetes, diseases which can be caused by our nation’s sedentary lifestyle. However, I wish their program were more inclusive of people of all abilities. If the premise is for people to “move more,” then why not include disabled people moving in the images on the website?
When the United States Surgeon General launched the “Step It Up!” campaign, the report and accompanying images included people with visible disabilities. This important inclusion meant I was less inclined to react with disdain and sarcasm when I viewed the promotional video which had images of people who looked like me.
Sure, physical activity is important for health. Most people are able to walk, and encouraging walking makes sense because it is an activity which does not require expensive equipment.
But not all of us can walk.
We care about our health and fitness too. Yet, when you leave us out of your campaigns, you send us the message that we can’t be successful in our fitness goals. You tell us we don’t matter.
That message really gets me out of shape.