Between 1986 and 1995, there appeared to be a 100% increase in the number of wheelchair users in England and Wales. This article reports some of the findings of a study designed to explore the social implications of this increase. Specifically, it examines the various explanations for the increases and concludes that whilst demographic changes or research methodologies are not responsible, the more likely causes are changing prescription practice, medical advances and changing attitudes to disablement. The article then explores the latter explanation by examining perceptions of wheelchair use, contrasting clinical and user views gained from in-depth interviews. It also reports findings from part of a large-scale postal survey of wheelchair users, which examined their attitudes toward different models of disability. It concludes that the responses of a large majority of wheelchair users of all ages are better explained by the social model of disability than any other.