: Non Wheelchair User Etiquette
Non Wheelchair User Etiquette
So how do you talk to someone in a wheelchair?. Well,
for a start, just to clear a few things up, you won't catch galloping
wheelchair disease if you shake their hand when you first meet,
nor will you turn into stone if you look them in the eye whilst
talking to them. The best way to treat a disabled person is to ignore
the wheelchair during a conversation and talk to the person rather
than the disability.
In order to understand the most common mistakes made
by abled bodied people when interacting with a disabled person,
here are a few things to keep in mind.
When first meeting a disabled person, offer to
shake their hand even if they appear to have limited use of their
arms. This action of personal contact breaks the psychological
barrier of non acceptance, and creates a warmer environment for
If the disabled person is with a carer, make sure
you speak to the disabled person directly, and not over their
heads to the carer, it is very annoying and frustrating not to
be included in a conversation which involves you.
When talking to someone in a wheelchair, make eye
contact, talk normally in a non patronising manner, and do not
stare at their wheelchair. Also, if they have thin legs due to
wasted muscle mass, or a pot belly due to paralysis of the abdominal
muscles, try not to keep looking at these different aspects of
the persons body, believe me, they will notice you looking!
If a conversation is expected to last longer than
five minutes, find somewhere to sit down, or squat down to the
wheelchair users eye level. This will reduce the wheelchair users
neck from being strained during a conversation. A good way to
experience how a wheelchair user feels during conversation whilst
looking up, is to stare at the ceiling directly above you whilst
sitting upright for five minutes. Your neck will soon start to
Whist talking to a disabled person, try to talk
as normally as possible, and do not apologise if you use an expression
such as "I must be running along", or "See you
later" if the person as partially sighted. These expressions
are part of everyday language, and the apology will probably be
more offensive or embarrassing than the expression.
To a wheelchair user, their wheelchair is part
of their body and personal space and should be treated as such.
Do not rest your foot on their wheelchair, or touch their wheelchair
unless you have been asked to. Never move a persons wheelchair
whilst they are in it unless you have been asked to, this can
be very dangerous as people with a fine sense of balance can very
easily fall out of their wheelchairs if not warned before being
moved. If you think someone in a wheelchair needs assistance,
always ask before taking any action.
Never slap a disabled person on the back or thigh
as a goodwill gesture. This can cause the person to loose their
balance, or trigger muscle spasms which can lead to the person
falling out of their chair. Muscle
spasms are uncontrollable movements in the body due to a damaged
spinal cord and can be uncomfortable and painfull.
If you are unsure of something about a disabled
person, which is relevant to a current situation, ask the disabled
person to clarify your query. It is in the disabled persons interest
to inform you of any special requirements they may have, or if
they need any specialised assistive techniques. For example, most
quadraplegics require some assistance when eating, whether if
is just the cutting up of their food or help with feeding.
If you have children, they will stare, it's their
nature. Talk to the child about disabled people, and help them
to understand why people use wheelchairs. This helps prevent fearfull
and negative attitudes towards disabled people. I am used to children
staring at my wheelchair, I see it as part of their education
as they often do not know any better, unlike adults who should
And last but not least, look beyond the chair, there
is a person in front of you, not a disability !
Support : Non Wheelchair