People who use wheelchairs use them for a myriad of reasons and your interaction with them should be a normal and pleasant experience. It may be hard for you to know exactly how to act, what to do, and what to say but in a recent article, “How to Interact with a Person Who Uses a Wheelchair,” you learn that, “you don’t want to cross any boundaries or accidentally offend someone, but at the same time you want to be helpful and understanding.”
Interacting with a person who uses a Kørestol should be a pleasant and enjoyable experience
Tip #1-Avoid making decisions about the person’s physical ability and limitations. You don’t know the reason that this person uses a wheelchair; it might be because they cannot stand for lengthy periods of time or that walking a long way is too much for them to accomplish. Don’t question their ability, their disability, and don’t be surprised if they can stand for short periods of time.
Tip #2-Treat a wheelchair user as you would any other person. Greet them with a handshake (unless they don’t have use of their arms and hands), use their name, and be pleased with a smile. You should always be respectful and carry on a conversation as you would with other people. Also, it’s a good idea to sit close to them if you can or kneel so they won’t have to strain to look up at you as you speak.
Tip #3-Speak directly with the person in the wheelchair. You should never talk above or around him to his companion; you should not ask if he needs help because he’ll let you know if he does.
Tip #4-Don’t be patronizing. You should not make comments about how the person moves in his chair, the condition of the chair, or the speed at which he is traveling.
Tip #5-Don’t touch the wheelchair without permission. This is a rude gesture and patronizes the wheelchair user. He is on the level of a child in his chair but should never be patted, touched, or tapped especially since he may have back or spinal problems. Keep your hands to yourself.
Tip #6-You should offer assistance when it’s appropriate. He will probably value his independence and won’t need your help unless he comes upon a challenge with which he does not feel comfortable. At that time, he will ask you for help.
Tip #7-Try to be aware of all Kørestol ramps and aids even when you are not with someone who uses a chair. You’ll become more cognizant of users as you locate ways that they are assisted with their movement around your local area. Later when you encounter someone who needs help, you’ll have the information that they need to move from one location to another carefully and safely.
Interacting with a wheelchair user should be no different than carrying on a conversation with a friend who might need some information or assistance from time to time. Remember to mind your manners and be respectful at all times.