Etiquette Advice for Interacting with Wheelchair Users

March 16, 2010

Feature, Odds and Ends, Opinion

Do any of the etiquette websites or books talk about what NOT to say to someone in a wheelchair? If not, perhaps they should. Cause some people have no common sense whatsoever. Here’s some practical advice:

  1. Do not assume that I am “confined” to a wheelchair or “wheelchair-bound”. I am not. I am “wheelchair-liberated”. Without my chair, I would be confined to go only as far as I can walk — maybe two blocks on a good day, maybe 3 feet on a bad one.
  2. Do not tell me that you (or your mother or your uncle) would be “like me” in “a chair” if not for the grace of God. I am glad that medical science was able to help you, her or him recover from whatever happened, but you sound like an idiot. Does God love me less than you? Or just not love me yet? And, assuming I were to believe you, then what? Do I go through the rest of my life assuming that I have been rejected by God simply because I have nerve damage?
  3. Do not assume I can’t walk at all. I can. A little.
  4. For restaurants….. I am talking to you Chipotle! If your counter is four feet high, don’t make me back up 4 feet to even see the person taking the order. Lower your damn counter! Then offer to help me get my food and especially my drink to my table. I guarantee that it’s less work than cleaning up your floor when I spill it.
  5. More for restaurants: Please don’t put a table with 5 or 6 customers right up against you’re only accessible entrance. No I will NOT go around to the other side and yes I will feel like an idiot when you ask them all to stand up so you can open the gate.
  6. If you see me struggling up a ramp or on those bumpy cut curb sidewalks, offer to help. Don’t assume I need help, but don’t assume I don’t. “Need a hand?” Chances are I will reply, “Yes please.” I’ll even thank you.
  7. Do NOT park in the disability parking space just because you have someone else’s disabled parking tag in your car. Unless that person is with you and will be entering or exiting the car, it’s not your space! Someone else probably needs it.
  8. If I phone or email your business about accessibilty and access, please don’t assume that I am over 80 years old, or that I am calling on behalf of someone else. I was a karate-mom (like a soccer mom but indoors) in my early 30′s when I became disabled.
  9. In crowded places, watch your purse and your elbows. Chances are you’re just a tad too close to my face.
  10. Also in crowded places, please don’t step over my feet. If you trip, you’ll be in my lap.

End of rant. For now.

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One Response to “Etiquette Advice for Interacting with Wheelchair Users”

  1. ccgandrt Says:

    11. DO NOT park your vehicle in front of the handicap ramp on the corner of a city block, nor in the driveway blocking the sidewalk. Your lack of consideration makes me maneuver the wheelchair into the street, against traffic, risking my life to find a way up onto the sidewalk.
    12. Grouch down, get eye level, why do we have to always look up and feel inferior, or is that your intention?

    Beautiful list.

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