As you know, navigating the world in a wheelchair means you will inevitably encounter a lot of well-meaning, but annoying behaviors. Here are the ones that wheelchair users tell us are their top five pet peeves.
Seeing the Wheelchair– Ignoring the Person in It
Please don’t ask their companions what the person in the wheelchair wants, such as: “What does he want to eat” or “Where does he want to go?” Despite the fact that he’s sitting down, his hearing, brains and vocal cords work just fine. It’s rude to treat the person in the chair as though he is invisible.
Helping Without Asking
Don’t rush to help. Always wait to be invited, even if you see someone appearing to struggle. Most wheelchair users are much more comfortable with managing day-to-day activities on their own. Even if it’s hard, most would rather do it themselves.
Hands Off the Wheelchair
Please avoid touching, rocking, tapping or leaning. Many people regard their wheelchairs almost as an extension of their bodies, as well as a lifeline to freedom. After all, you wouldn’t just go up to a stranger on the street and put your arm around them or tap them on the knee.
Take a Seat Yourself
Find a chair and sit down so you are eye-to-eye when you are having a conversation with a person in a wheelchair that lasts more than a few minutes. It’s awkward and uncomfortable for the person to be looking up at you all the time; it doesn’t feel like a conversation between equals.
No Parking, No Kidding.
This is probably the number-one pet peeve of wheelchair users. It’s infuriating to see an obviously able-bodied person taking up a handicapped space. And that includes the striped space at the side, which is marked off to make it possible to lower a wheelchair lift. Spaces marked handicapped can be few and far between. If you see someone using one for his or her own convenience, speak up. It’s anti-social behavior, like spitting in the street—only worse.
Got a pet peeve of your own to add? Tell us about it in the space below.
Thanks for asking! I don’t like to complain and I do try to be a model citizen of the ‘disabled community’ but there are a few more things that I’d like to add to this blog. While I try my best to let these things go, I can’t help but feel the slightest bit annoyed when people make the ‘beep, beep, beep’ noise when I’m backing up in my chair. Really? I am not a truck. I do understand that people have different experiences in their lives and may have never encountered a person who really and truly cannot stand or walk even just a little bit. If I tell you, airport personnel, that I cannot stand or walk, please believe me, if I could I would! Shopping: now this has to be an issue with mom’s and strollers as well, but who puts up clothing racks in such a way that I feel like I’m stuck in a maze trying to get through from one area to another? I’m not at the mall to play games, I’m on a mission! Please don’t refer to me as differently abled, physically challenged, confined to a wheelchair or wheelchair bound…I’m sorry, I know there needs to be a descriptor but I can’t think of one I like! Finally (no, not really, I could go on and on but enough already), I just started using a new powerchair. The best part of it is…there is a speedometer on it so I can actually tell people when they ask how fast my wheelchair goes…is 4.7 mph too fast for the office hallway?
On the same topic of the wheelchair being an extension of the body, I’ve had a few instances where I was getting into my car, and before I even open the door, I’d feel a jerking of my wheelchair, and someone would right away ask “do I need any help?” Of course, all this is done before I even knew what was going on, and had a chance to prepare, because I was surprised by their action. On the opposite end of the spectrum, I’ve also seen people just stand and watch me get into and out of my car, and just as I’m about done with what I have to do, they then ask if I need help…it’s almost like they did it knowing that I would say ‘no,’ but asked just so that the person could feel good about their actions…which were really token at best when you think about it.
Yes! Things like being talked over/around and having my personal space invaded when people lean on or bump into my wheelchair definitely get under my skin. It is exhausting to be constantly speaking up for something that others take for granted.
I will say also that I love when somebody takes a seat or even kneels to have a conversation with me. I always notice it because it is unfortunately so uncommon. It is great when someone notices and shows the respect to come to my level.