Image of pageindex72008.gif

Image of misleadingmobility.jpg

Jerry Seinfeld has a great bit in his comedy act where he asks, “Have you ever seen a two-year-old standing at the coffee table, face turning red, eyes popping, making that face, and you ask him if he's pooped in his diaper? And, the little guy shakes his head, no. Where does a two-year-old learn how to lie about pooping in his diaper?”

Of course, what's funny about Seinfeld's bit is that it's very true – the little tykes deny going potty every time. Yet, what strikes me is how unsophisticated two-year-olds are in their lying. I mean, if you're going to bluff as a toddler, don't bluff about something as obvious as poop in your diaper, which everyone in the room can smell. Rather, if you're going to try to bluff as a toddler, make it regarding something that your parents can't prove, like denying swallowing a penny: Penny? What penny?

In all seriousness, what's truly difficult is when some consumers don't tell the whole story about issues surrounding their mobility products. Surely, there's something funny about a two-year-old denying a poop-filled diaper – at least as Seinfeld tells it. However, there's nothing amusing about a consumer who veils the potential cause of an issue with his or her mobility product, hampering the trouble-shooting and repair process. After all, the quickest route to resolving a mobility issue is in knowing the precise cause, and when the consumer knows what may have caused the issue, but veils it for some reason, potentially misleading those trying to help, it can dramatically hamper the repair process.

As one who's used a power wheelchair for over 30 years, and have been personally involved in countless situations involving consumers' mobility, I've done, heard, and seen a lot more than the average Joe. And, I've unfortunately encountered my share of people trying to veil potential causes of issues with their mobility products. What's striking, however, is that in most cases, if the consumer simply disclosed the whole situation – as in, “I got caught in a thunderstorm,” instead of, ”My power wheelchair just started flashing error codes at the mall the other day” – the issue would have been immediately known and resolved, avoiding lengthy trouble-shooting, promptly restoring the consumer's mobility.

So, the question is, why wouldn't someone tell the absolute truth regarding how an issue occurred with his or her mobility product, instead of leaving out vital details or fabricating a tale?

Because those of us with disabilities are real people, that's why. While it may not be moral or ethical, it's undeniable that some try to coax their way out of a self-caused or accidental mobility issue to avoid embarrassment, guilt, or financial burden. For example, if I accidentally slam my power wheelchair into a curb at full speed, and break the caster fork, it would be tempting to simply tell my provider, “I was driving from my van to my home's front door, and the front fork just fell off.” After all, if I don't tell the whole story, I'm not embarrassed that I've wrecked my own wheelchair, and the repair may be covered under warranty.

Another more complex example would be if I hooked-up a stereo to a single battery of my power wheelchair, soon noticing reduced range (namely because running power off of a single battery destroys both batteries within a power wheelchair system). If I unhooked my electronics, sent my power wheelchair to the shop, and simply claimed that my batteries weren't lasting, my provider would have to trouble-shoot the entire system, and replace the batteries, a drawn-out, costly process – and that's not fair to the provider, insurer, or manufacture. By contrast, if I was honest and explained what I did – hooked up enough “bass” to out thump a low-rider! – the issue would have been immediately known and promptly resolved, where everyone would win, especially me via having my mobility quickly restored.

The fact is, when providers know the entirety of a situation, it allows them to immediately help. Accidents happen, we all do dumb stuff, and when issues occur, disclosing the entirety of it is the right approach for consumers. A great example of this is that recently a gentleman came to me noting that his footplate fell off of the back of his car when transporting his power wheelchair, and was damaged beyond use. Obviously, warranty doesn't cover footplates damaged from falling off of cars, and from my experience, I know that some users would have simply tried to claim that the footplate “just broke.” But, this gentleman, in full integrity, told me that it fell off the back of his car during transport. He didn't lie to me, or try to trick me, or lead me on a wild goose chase to see if there was a universal footplate strength issue of concern. Rather, he simply told me the truth. As a result, I appreciated the gentleman's situation, as anyone would, and I gladly replaced the footplate. He was sincere with me, I was sincere with him, and the issue was promptly resolved.

While some people do “skirt the truth” to try to gain benefit for themselves or cover-up their mistakes, I've learned in my career – and life – that it rarely pays off in the end. Truly, when one veils the cause of a mobility issue, it's taking huge risks with one's own mobility. Firstly, veiling the cause usually delays the solution because  trouble-shooting must occur, often in a number of ways that take time. Secondly, when one isn't entirely honest with those trying to help, one jeopardizes their trust, and those helping will be far less likely to take one seriously in the future, or possibly even refuse help. In short, veiling the cause of a mobility issue generally delays a solution and ruins professional relationships – and those realities only harm the consumer's own mobility in the end.

Surely, the vast majority of people are of great integrity. Yet, I also recognize that many good people can find themselves in an everyday moral dilemma, where they've had an accident or made a mistake and don't know how to get themselves out of it regarding their mobility products?

When we find ourselves at such crossroads regarding an issue with our mobility products, there's only one right answer: Tell the entirety of the situation – even if we've made a mistake or caused the issue – and let others help. When we're simply honest, it gets our mobility issues resolved quicker and people respect us. And, that's a great way to live life in general.

Published 11/08, Copyright 2008, WheelchairJunkie.com