Etiquette to use when interacting with a wheelchair user

NCART-Blog-The-right-and-wrong-way-to-interact-with-a-wheelchair-user

If you’re a wheelchair user, you have certain “pet peeves” when it comes to how people interacted with you. Among them may be how people interact with you. Today’s blog covers what is proper etiquette around a wheelchair user:

Don’t touch my wheelchair. In many ways, my wheelchair is an extension of my body. You wouldn’t touch a stranger on a random part of their body, so don’t do it to my chair.

Don’t talk slower to me. I can understand speech perfectly fine. Even if my condition prevents me from speaking clearly, I’m still able to comprehend what you’re saying.

Don’t pat me on the head. I’m not a little kid.

Don’t talk over my head like I’m not there. Even if I’m with my caretaker, I can still talk, make decisions and interact with other people. Similarly, if I was standing up next to you, you would never think to talk through me as if I’m invisible—yet, that’s exactly what you’re doing when you talk over me.

Don’t grab my wheelchair handles so I can’t move. You wouldn’t like it if someone kept you from moving freely.

Don’t make me strain my neck. Pull up a chair or sit down next to me if you want to have a long conversation. It can strain my neck if I’m looking up at you too long, and that’s just uncomfortable.

Don’t ask me what happened. For some wheelchair users, this is a personal and touchy subject. Just like anyone else, some of us are more private than others, and really don’t want to reveal parts of our lives to complete strangers.

Don’t assist me when I say no. I like to maintain my autonomy and independence. It’s condescending for you to assume I need help when I haven’t asked for it. Also, if you jump to the “rescue” without asking, you could throw me off balance.

At NCART, we believe education is the key when it comes to changing both society and governmental regulations when it comes to wheelchair users. We continue to fight for the rights of wheelchair users, and you can help us. Visit our website to learn how!