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.