A woman’s wheelchair was labelled a “hoax” after she stood up for a few moments during a trip to Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida.
Last weekend the woman, children’s author Kristen Waldbieser, visited the popular US landmark to see the new Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge exhibit.
Due to her condition, postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS), Waldbieser requires a wheelchair for long distances as her heart rate increases when she stands up.
When she stood up for a few moments to pose for a photo alongside her book Princess Audrey Saves the Prince – which tells the story of a princess with disabilities – a stranger joked: “Oh, the wheelchair is a hoax!”
Despite the anonymous person believing their comments to be harmless, Waldbieser was left “stung” by the words.
To remind others that chronic illnesses don’t always look the same and “to bring invisible illness to light”, Waldbieser shared a heartfelt post on Instagram.
Alongside a side-by-side comparison photograph showing her sat in her wheelchair and stood without support, she wrote: “No, I don’t need my wheelchair every day. But my wheelchair helps me get places that I otherwise probably couldn’t go.
“But just because I don’t need it every day, doesn’t mean it’s not real and it’s not needed. It is not a hoax. And even jokingly, it’s not ok to say that to someone. Not all disabilities or chronic illness looks the same.
“And it’s time to break that stigma that those with chronic illnesses are faking it, which unfortunately, is heard by so many far too often. Long story short, you never know someone else’s story, so please be kind with your words.”
The post soon amassed over 2,170 likes, with social media users thanking the author for helping to spread awareness.
“You are rocking that wheelchair,” one commented. “People are so cruel these days and so sorry this happened to you. Thank you for educating people on this important issue.”
Another also gave Waldbieser credit for speaking out, adding: “This is such an important message! So sorry this happened to you but it’s awesome you’re making it an opportunity to educate, your post has reached a lot of folks!”
Others opened up about their own personal experiences with suffering from a chronic condition.
“That's awful! I too can stand up from my wheelchair, but it always makes me feel awkward because I'm afraid for reactions like this,” an Instagram user commented. “It would really ruin my day if someone said that to me.”
Another wrote: “I get that too. I can’t stay on my feet very long due to weakness and pain. Say to yourself ‘what people think of me is none of my business’. Carry on getting out in whatever way you can!”