Is it Offensive to Use a Wheelchair as a Part of a Costume?

Is it offensive to use a wheelchair as part of a costume? Unless you are actually in need of a mobility device, then yes. With Halloween around the corner, people are currently coming up with or have already prepared their costume. While there are plenty of non-offensive costumes, there a few individuals who will be in a less than appropriate costume this year. A good rule of thumb is that it's always a good idea to steer clear of people’s culture and marginalized groups for Halloween costumes.

Why is it a good idea to avoid costumes involving a wheelchair specifically? If you don't have the need for a mobility device and are simply using it for entertainment purposes, you can invalidate someone’s experience as a wheelchair user. It's not something they can’t take on and off. Wheelchair users constantly deal with their reality on an everyday basis each with their own unique experiences. Being sensitive to others during Halloween may seem redundant, but it is important to make sure the day is fun for all.

In Hollywood, there are many mainstream characters in wheelchairs. But, almost always they are portrayed by able-bodied actors. This may lead others to believe that doing so for one day is alright. While these parts may bring to light disabled individuals, that doesn't make it appropriate to material for a Halloween costume.

Some wheelchair users may not take offense to someone using a wheelchair as a part of their costume. They may be concerned with using a wheelchair as a costume because others may not know how to use the chair properly, and run the risk of hurting themselves or others. However, they may feel offended if individuals were intentionally mocking disabled people. It’s best to avoid this situation altogether and pick a costume that doesn't involve a mobility device.

Imitating people with disabilities is never a good idea when you don’t have one, even when done without humor. Please don’t rent a wheelchair from a medical supply or ask your friend to borrow theirs, because you may be disrespecting to some.

Ray Galan