Earlier this week, Katie Price managed to insult a large portion of disabled people. Including me.
After breaking both of her feet as a result of jumping over a wall ‘without judging the height’ while on holiday with her boyfriend and family in Turkey in July, she is now in a wheelchair.
After medical treatment, she has now been told she will be unable to walk for six months because of her injuries.
This must be a difficult time for Katie and, for that, she has my sympathy – but in a recent interview she perpetuated some really ableist views.
‘Not only am I in a wheelchair, I have to learn to walk again and I am disabled. It’s humiliating,’ Price said. ‘I feel so embarrassed being pushed around. People treat me differently and I don’t know why my boyfriend stays with me.’
As a wheelchair user myself – I have been since April last year after suffering a hypoxic brain injury – I find Katie’s language and views to be very problematic.
The idea that it’s ‘humiliating’ and ‘embarrassing’ is ableist and these comments could be very damaging for people who have recently come to need a wheelchair.
They’re also particularly surprising considering a member of her own family is disabled. Her son Harvey is blind, autistic and has Prader-Willi syndrome and Katie is his biggest defender. She recently spoke out about online abuse of Harvey, who has been the victim of online trolls in the past because of his disability and race. Because of this, I expected better.
I’m comfortable enough in my own skin for Katie’s recent comments to not really affect me. I don’t feel ashamed for my boyfriend or friends to push me down the road in my wheelchair and I don’t shy away from telling the world that I am disabled.
I regularly post pictures of myself in my wheelchair on Instagram. I have a whole series of videos on IGTV where I discuss different disability issues – from a tour of how our flat has been modified to make it more accessible to reviews of accessible jeans.
And although I am sometimes nostalgic for a time when my life was not characterised by my disability, I don’t shy away from being disabled.
But I do feel for people who aren’t as comfortable about being in a wheelchair. It is something that can be very hard to come to terms with and it requires a lot of time and patience.
I was even more saddened when Katie spoke about her boyfriend Carl and society’s perceptions of them while they’re together. She said: ‘I feel so sorry for Carl because he is such a 6′ 2″, handsome, gorgeous man and I bet people look at him and think “Look at you having to push her around in a wheelchair”.’
My boyfriend is 6′ 3″ and equally handsome, but I would never dream of him thinking something so ableist about us as a couple. We might get the occasional funny look, but honestly, who cares? We are happy and secure in our relationship and that is all that matters.
Content warning: The following may be triggering to people who are new to being in wheelchair
Katie’s self-esteem has clearly taken a hit from this injury and it’s something I can relate to. When I was in the hospital, I don’t think it really occurred to me just how much my life was going to change.
Initially, my confidence took a hit too. I worried that people would wonder what happened to me. My surgery scars were also much more obvious and I tried to cover them up with makeup.
Nothing – not even doctors, nurses or physiotherapists – can prepare you for life in a wheelchair.
And if left unchecked, a lot of disabled people can develop internalised ableism. I still catch myself thinking ableist things about myself from time to time.
I wish that I could wear old clothes and high heels that I can’t wear because of my disability. I wonder as we head into an era of hen parties and weddings if my friends will leave me behind in my wheelchair. I worry that I am not pretty enough to have something wrong with me and still be considered attractive.
I think it’s especially hard for people like myself who have suddenly gone from being non-disabled to disabled. There is always the temptation to compare yourself to how you used to be and that can be really painful.
But because of Katie’s platform, she has to make sure she doesn’t allow her own worries to reinforce negative attitudes about disabled people, their capability and their desirability.
Addressing the backlash to her comments, a representative for Katie Price said: ‘Katie herself is deeply sorry that her words in a recent interview have been taken out of her own personal account. Katie asks that those she has unwittingly offended grant her forgiveness, as she never intended her words to be taken or dreamed to be offensive or detrimental in any way and is sorry for any upset caused.’
I think that it is great that Katie has now apologised but it might be too little too late if wheelchair users have already read her comments and gone on to internalise that ableism.
We live in a society that perpetuates the idea that disabled people have something to be ashamed of and this can be extremely harmful.
For example, when a building doesn’t have wheelchair access, it supports the idea that we don’t belong and we shouldn’t be seen. That can be extremely difficult, especially if you are new to this situation. So hearing such a well-known celebrity voice similar beliefs is heart-wrenching.
I genuinely hope that Katie’s stint in a wheelchair can change her perspective on these issues for the better and that her journey to self-acceptance can inspire others, too.
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