A view from the other side

Gretchen Berland began a project to videotape the experiences of life in a wheelchair from the perspective of being in the wheelchair. She writes in The New England Journal of Medicine.

They began by filming processes related to activities of daily life — buttoning a shirt with an antique bootlace hook, using a grabber to retrieve a bottle cap from the floor. Wallengren’s footage of the preparation of his breakfast drink puts the viewer in his wheelchair; we see his hand falter as he lifts the milk from refrigerator to counter. The participants filmed events related to their passions: basketball, camping, disability rights, music. They filmed their loved ones. Each used the camera as a confidant; sitting alone in his bathroom, Wallengren talks about his progressive symptoms and the choices he faces.

When I first heard about this video I thought it might be a useful way of exemplifying some NLP principles including rapport and second position. When I watched them I got much more than I bargained for.

The first segment filmed in a doctor’s office is an excellent demonstration of how not to do rapport with a patient. In the second segment the same patient speaks to the camera about what is on his mind, perhaps the kind of thing that the doctor might have heard had he connected with him.

One of the segments is just a wheelchair’s eye view of someone making breakfast. As someone who has never been in a wheelchair it gives a small insight into just what a laborious task something I take for so much granted can become.

Finally in a segment that beggars belief we watch someone stuck in a stalled wheelchair just 10 feet from her door. As Berland says:

Moments of extraordinary frustration were also recorded, a scene captured by Elman being a striking example. After 20 years of living with multiple sclerosis, Elman required a power wheelchair. One afternoon, her regular public-transportation service picked her up from an event, and during the ride home, her wheelchair stalled inside the van. Although it’s officially against the rules, most riders say that a driver will sometimes bring them into their homes. That day, however, Elman wasn’t so lucky. The driver parked her 10 ft from her front door, where she stayed and waited. But she had brought the video camera. The first time I screened this tape, I was horrified. I watched Elman try to call for help on a cell phone that had no signal. I watched her wait for a car to drive by, hoping that someone would stop and help. I watched as the afternoon light faded in the background.

You can read the full article and watch the video here: The View from the Other Side — Patients, Doctors, and the Power of a Camera (scroll down to the bottom of the article for the video link).

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