Monday, 20 June 2011

How To Speak To Wheelchair Users

DO give them personal space. Standing over someone who is sitting down is very aggressive and intimidating. Remember the scary teacher at school?

DON'T treat them like a child. Just because a person's legs don't work doesn't mean their brain broke too. They don't give DLA to the hard of thinking (or the country would be bankrupt in a week...)

DO say please and thank you. How would you like to be bossed about?

DON'T expect the person pushing the chair to move it out of your way. If I'm going uphill, I've got my head down so I can use my bodyweight to move an inert weight twice mine against gravity. If we're going downhill, I'm desperately trying to grip slippery plastic handles before both person and contraption go hurtling into the traffic. Pavements are not flat.

DO smile, nod and say hi. Being stuck in a chair can be very isolating as you're dependant on others for pretty much everything. Small courtesies are important.

DON'T look at me like I'm mad for talking to what you think is a "spazzer" or "retard" like they have a brain. They do.


  1. Good post. Sometimes it can be intimidating to face a person in a wheelchair - having to step out of one's comfort zone as it were. Having a few basic tips on how to make their life easier is no bad thing.

    Now how do we get the DM readers to read this post?

  2. Enjoyed your post. I think adults could learn a lot about talking to people in wheelchairs from their children. Kids make eye contact. Kids ask questions if they have them. Kids don't assume that wheelchair --> stupid

  3. Nice posts on your blog! About speaking to wheelchair users, can you clarify about when should I stay standing, or kneel down / squat down so that our heads are on the same level?

    I've done that a couple of times in the past, it doesn't bother me, but I do worry it seems patronising sometimes.

  4. Thanks!

    It depends on the person and the length of the conversation. As a general rule, as long as you remember personal space and treat an adult as an adult you won't offend.

    Oh, and just because a person's expressive language isn't up to yours, don't assume their receptive language is the same ;)