10 things to not do to someone in a wheelchair

Hello everyone! 🙋 I recently watched the short videos that Scope and Channel 4 did about some of the things that you really shouldn’t do when you are talking to someone with a disability. It inspired me to do this blog of my top ten things to not do when you are around someone in a wheelchair.

1. Bend down to talk to me.

Just an FYI I’m not a child, there’s no need to bend down and talk to me like I am one.

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2. Talk to the person I’m with instead of me

Just because I’m in a wheelchair doesn’t mean that I can’t hold a regular conversation or make my own decisions. It’s cool though, I’ll just sit here while you ask my mum if I want sugar in my tea…giphy93AIH51K

3. Jump out of my way as if I have no control over where I’m going or whether I’m about to drive into you or not.

Honestly, I am in control of this wheelchair and I promise I wasn’t about to ram into your ankles. Although after that completely over the top reaction I’m now quite tempted…

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4. Give me dirty looks when I pull into disabled spaces

Just because I’m in my early 20s doesn’t mean that it’s not possible for me to actually need to park in a disabled space. The joy I get when I see their face as I pull my wheelchair out of my car. Yeah, see…

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5. Point me out to your children

This is one that my mum noticed more than I did. When kids look at me because they are genuinely curious I don’t actually mind. But if it’s parents pointing me out…that’s not ok guys.

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6. Talk to me like I’m deaf

It’s my leg that’s the problem. My ears are fine.

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7. Take picture of me when I’m sat on the tube

This is an actual true story. I was sat on the tube and some woman took a picture and forgot to turn her flash off. Maybe she was taking a picture of other people or the floor of the carriage. But I’m not convinced, her shiftiness after the whole incident was just too odd. Being chased by the paparazzi before I’m even famous…

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8. Try and guess what my condition is or why I’m in a wheelchair.

It’s estimated that my condition affects one in 20,000 people. I can pretty much guarantee that you won’t guess. Oh…you’re still gonna try? Oh ok…

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9. Ask me “what I did I do to myself?”

Unless we’re counting a genetic mutation that happened in the womb I didn’t “do anything to myself”. Just because I’m in a wheelchair at the age of 21 that doesn’t mean that I’ve broken my leg.

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10. “My brother’s friend’s cousin is in a wheelchair. Do you know them?”

Seriously. That doesn’t even warrant an answer.

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24 thoughts on “10 things to not do to someone in a wheelchair

    1. I am in a wheelchair and people “Hang on to my chair” and with my spinal disorder, every sudden movement or shaking my chair hurts me. I have this problem a lot. Also if they are pushing me, they push me where they want to go, not where I want to go. It is VERY frustrating.

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  1. Great post! I can most relate to 1, 2, 3 and 7 but number 3 especially as I drive a powerchair, and if people theatrically jump out of the way it makes it look like I’m a bad driver. really annoying!

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    1. Hi Alex, I loved this article in general too. I use a Hoveround. People are *wise* to jump out of the way when I’m driving b/c I’m still getting used to the joystick – even after a year. I actually ran over a lady’s toe, but I did warn her to step back! Oh, her toe was fine. I felt terrible about it though. But my point is, there are some exceptions, like in my case with learning to hold in all that horsepower. They don’t tell you all the dangers on their safety video. Oh, I guess I don’t get a lot of these questions because I’m in my late 60’s. In my case, I’ve noticed people tend to *expect* me to be in a wheelchair, especially since I also use oxygen 24/7.

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      1. Well an interesting thing I have noticed is that some people tend to apologise to ME when I run them over, even if it was blatantly my fault! Which I find really amusing! Not that I do it on purpose though! I wouldn’t feel bad about running people over, especially if you did warn. They should look where they are going.:-)

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you for this information and please excuse my ignorance. For number 1 I bend down because I was taught it is rude to tower over someone and one should always try to make eye to eye contact. I did not realise this was wrong. I would do the same to a young person in a pushchair and certainly do not mean to offend. Thankfully I now know better.

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    1. I also do this out of respect, I would do the same to shorter people as well, partially because although I don’t have hearing problems as such it really helps me to be able to see someone’s lips move when they talk. Perhaps the author of this post (which by the way is fantastic) could give some guidelines as to what is preferable- being at eve level but have someone bending down or have someone towering over; it would be really useful to me to know what to do in this situation. Thanks and thanks for the blog post, I hope you don’t mind the question 🙂

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      1. Hi Ele and Keith! Thanks for your comments. I think obviously the main thing is that these are my opinions and by no means will every in a wheelchair agree with me about everything I say!

        For me, someone bending is patronising as it’s something that is done a lot for children. It also is awkward for the person who is crouching or bending down which gives me the impression that they aren’t prepared to have an extended conversation with me.

        Obviously if it’s better for the other person who isn’t a wheelchair user to be bending or crouching then that’s fine, maybe just give me a heads up that’s what you’re doing so I know. And of course there’s plenty of situations where this becomes redundant: if it’s loud of course it’s easier for people to crouch so that everyone can hear the conversation for example.

        I think the main thing is that my word isn’t the rules, it’s just my opinion but quite often being in a wheelchair unfortunately means that a lot of people will patronise me and crouching down can be very patronising. I think that’s the main thing to take away.

        I hope that helps! 😊

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      2. I bend down to talk to people as through experience with people in wheelchairs is that they feel intimidated when you tower above them. but in no way do i treat them differently

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      3. Hi Janice

        Thanks for your comment. If your experience has proven that is the best thing to do then of course I’m not trying to tell you that’s wrong.

        The point that I’m trying to get across with my blogs is that every single person with a wheelchair and any other disability is different. In the same way that one person may like to have a lot of personal space and another person might not I want to stop every person with a disability being lumped into one big group. Some of us might prefer it when people bend down and others might not. It seems I could possibly be the minority amongst wheelchair users in this particular opinion! But by raising awareness then people will think about it more and it will be discussed more rather than everyone being treated in the same way just because they fall under the category of “disabled”.

        I hope you agree with my sentiments and like I said, I’m not disagreeing with you. I’m quite a confident woman and I think this means that I’m not intimidated by much but I think your approach is great.

        Thanks for taking the time to read my blog!

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  3. I am in a electric mobile chair, that I purchase on my own, long time ago. I been disable all my life, I can not hear when spoken to in a soft voice, or not close enough to me so I may or not hear you. I can not hear you if my back is turn, I can not Speak English, so you could under stand what I said. Could not see, bad eye slight in needing glass.
    I can not walk long distant, like 10 yards or more with out some type of support, & with out loosing my balance, and falling. I was born cripple in 1947, my legs were straiten out to a point. I wore braces on both leg until I was in 4th grade. I was kept home and no schooling. I started school in 1958 first grade I was 10 years old. Ever since I was to old for the class and them teacher would past me from grade to grade because I was to old for there class,
    Over the years I have look for help, some one maybe to help me. Then I found this page. so I am writing.. I think I can pay for the right help. I don’t know. I learn how to spell ,some words in school & little reading, and some math by nice teachers, who would pitty me and would take out time to help me. Some man hit me, in the rear in 2011 total my SUV I was driving, injure me bad, I end up in the Host.
    I am married our kids are grown and gone. I am sixty-seven years old and still need sound and speech.
    Mrs. Viola Porter mrsportertiogatexas@aol.com phone 940-437-3113 < Notice NOT a cell phone.
    8/26/2015 8:10 PM

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  4. OK, My sister uses a chair most of the time and I agree with everything here except maybe the “Bend down to talk to me” one. In fairness, when we’re out and about I won’t bend down to talk to her because we are on the move, and generally when we are chatting we both sit down so we can talk face to face. However, whilst I can see why it can be considered as patronizing, in a loud environment where we can’t stand/sit a comfortable distance apart and still hear each other, would you seriously want to talk to my crotch rather than have me bend down???

    🙂

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    1. Hi Mike.

      I’ve already mentioned this in more detail in a previous comment which you might like to have a look at but I completely understand there are situations where this isn’t feasible. If the opportunity for someone to sit down presents itself then great but I’m specifically talking about someone crouching or bending and as I mentioned in my previous comment certain situations, for example if it’s loud, it becomes necessary to crouch or bend down.

      Someone crouching or bending isn’t a naturally comfortable stance for most and gives the impression that this isn’t set to be an extended conversation. Of course this is just my opinion and I would never say that any of these are the rules that absolutely must be followed, it’s all personal preference, but I would much prefer for someone to stand as they would for any other person and I am more than happy to look up at them.

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  5. I’ve experienced most of these, in the wheelchair and even when I have been on crutches 🙂 I’ve given up answering the stupid questions, I just look ahead as though I haven’t heard and let them draw their own conclusions

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  6. I’ve lived with my own disability all my life & although I don’t have a mobility issue so no need of a chair much of what you say is true for all visible disabilities.
    A couple of things I’d like to share from my perspective.
    I to try to talk at eye level to someone in a chair, it’s not meant in a patronising way, but despite being 5’10” people still talk ‘down’ to you if you’re obviously disabled so it’s just me being sociable.
    Obviously if the conversation was interesting & protracted I might ask if we could move somewhere where I could find a seat.
    9. I once had a deeply new age spiritual woman tell me my disability was payment for sins in a previous life!!! (No 11 should be ‘just because I’m different don’t mean every nutter can come & speak to me).
    It took me by surprise at first but I managed to compose myself enough to reply I considered it punishment for sins I had yet to commit, then asked her if she had any daughters in as lecherous a fashion as I could muster.
    Have fun.
    Steve. :o)

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  7. My wife said her pet hate is being patted on the head. She said she doesn’t get that much now-days but still gets “What happened to you”?

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