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8 Tips for Interacting with People with Mobility Impairments-Wheelchair Etiquette

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Wheelchair User
Someone You Love has a Disability



Wheelchair Etiquette: 8 Things to Keep in Mind
When Interacting with People with Mobility Impairments

People use wheelchairs for different reasons. Some people who use wheelchairs can and do walk or stand - often with the use of a cane, braces, crutches or a walker.  Using a wheelchair some of the time may be a means of conserving energy or getting about more quickly. It does not mean that the person is "faking" a disability.

When interacting with people with a mobility impairment, keep these things in mind:

  1. Never patronize people in wheelchairs by patting them on the head or shoulder. Speak to them in a normal tone of voice. Baby talk is inappropriate.
  2. If you want to offer help, do so in a respectful way. Say, "Is there something I can do to be helpful?" rather than, "I better help you with that. You'll never be able to it yourself."
  3. After you've asked the person who uses the wheelchair if he/she wants some help, wait for the answer. Don't assume your assistance is wanted or needed.  For example:  Ask a wheelchair user if he/she wants to be pushed BEFORE doing so. If your offer is refused, understand that some people prefer to do things independently.
  4. Never move mobility devices like canes, crutches, walkers or wheelchairs unless you are specifically asked to do so. Three-wheeled scooters also are considered wheelchairs. If a person transfers out of a wheelchair and asks you to move it, don’t move it out of the person’s reach.
  5. Sit, squat or kneel when you're talking with a person who uses a wheelchair, otherwise the wheelchair user has to constantly look up.  If you can't sit down, remember the taller you are the further away you should stand.
  6. Do not lean against or hang on someone's wheelchair. Keep in mind that people who use wheelchairs treat their chair as an extension of their bodies.
  7. You should speak directly to persons using the mobility devices and not to their friends or companions, but feel free to include any companions in the conversation.
  8. When giving directions, consider distance, weather conditions and surfaces such as stairs, curbs or inclines that may pose challenges.


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