"NEVER touch or move a wheelchair without permission."
July 13, 2015 2:22 AM   Subscribe

 
When in a department store, remember the hanging clothes are at face level for the wheelchair occupant and go around the long way. Don't push all the way up to the checkout counter, which likewise puts the wheelchair user's eyes below the lip of the desk or counter. Be firm and polite with people who push ahead of you in line. They actually didn't realize the wheelchair user was in line.

Come around to the front of the chair and lean or hunker down to talk to the wheelchair user when you have to have a conversation. Avoid eye contact with the clerk who tries to talk to you instead of the wheelchair user, and if they persist, look startled and ask the wheelchair user the question they're asking. Refrain from snapping at them because this is the first time for many of them, even if for you it's every darn time you go to the store.

All offers for help will come after you have already done most of the hard work of getting the chair in or out of the car or up a ramp or set of stairs. Don't get mad at people for offering late, but don't bother trying to answer until you're finished because it will distract your attention.

The wheelchair user will often do exactly what you do when you're walking through a store, which is reach out to examine things or feel their texture when passing. Try to stop when that happens instead of letting momentum carry you past and tear the clothes out of the wheelchair user's hand. Try not to yell at the wheelchair user.

Get regular massages or chiropractic work if you do it often, because wheelchairs are designed neither for the pusher or the pushee, and putting a folding wheelchair in the front of the car is only marginally easier than getting the wheelchair user in the car.

Don't expect the rest of the world to understand your personal situation.
posted by Peach at 3:58 AM on July 13, 2015 [46 favorites]


Fantastic stuff!

There needs to be something similar for vision-inpaired people. And I have broken almost all of the "assisting helping vision-impaired" rules.

1. Don't hold out your hand when greeting a blind person unless you are happy to have it left hanging out there in space. Instead, greet people with a warm verbal introduction.

2. On a train, don't grab a blind persons arm and force them towards the nearest handrail - always ask if they need help and then guide them instead

3. When steering blind people through crowded areas, be aware of table edges (yes, I have steered a blind person into a desk)

4. When meeting a blind person with a guide dog, do not try and pat the dog - even if you are dog mad. The dog is on duty unless clearly stated.

5. When offering to lead a blind people, offer a shoulder or an elbow.

6. When writing emails to blind people, you might need to spell emoticons - depending on the person [grin]

7. My partner would add one more due to embarrassment... On public transport, avoid striking up conversations with blind people to ask them which is their favourite screen reader, and which are their favourite keyboard shortcuts.

I'm sure there are 200 others.
posted by greenhornet at 4:31 AM on July 13, 2015 [19 favorites]


Get regular massages or chiropractic work if you do it often, because wheelchairs are designed neither for the pusher or the pushee

What? Why not?
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 5:08 AM on July 13, 2015


My wife walks with a cane. When we go to places that require a lot of walking, like a museum, she uses a wheelchair. I quickly discovered that a) pushing a wheelchair, as described above, takes a fair amount of skill and b) the abled don't see the disabled at all.
posted by double block and bleed at 5:11 AM on July 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


Refrain from snapping at them because this is the first time for many of them, even if for you it's every darn time you go to the store.

True in many domains.
posted by gimonca at 5:12 AM on July 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


What? Why not?

Medical equipment rarely seems designed by, or even in consultation with, people who need to use it. Pretty much,"take what they offer and shut up or kitbash your own solutions" is the order of the day.

Talking to a friend with MS, I heard about a motorized wheelchair design (one based on the Segway), which (among other things) has the virtue of raising the user up when the device is stationary. Test users apparently reported that being at eye height during conversations was transformative.
posted by GenjiandProust at 5:17 AM on July 13, 2015 [37 favorites]


the abled don't see the disabled at all.

Aieee. Yes. I've lost track of how many people have walked straight at my wife, forcing her to step out of the way or me to step in the way. Her white cane is apparently a cloak of invisibility.
posted by Mogur at 5:19 AM on July 13, 2015 [7 favorites]


Oh wow thank you so much Peach, greenhornet and others for your tips. Mine is from my days as a transporter in a hospital: back into elevators so the person in the chair is facing the doors and isn't staring at the back wall of the elevator as it moves. Who faces that way in an elevator ever? Someone told me it can make people feel claustrophobic. And backing down ramps - especially not code kinda extra steep ones. Don't want anyone to fall forward out of chair or feel like they might do that.
posted by dog food sugar at 5:22 AM on July 13, 2015 [9 favorites]


Talking to a friend with MS, I heard about a motorized wheelchair design (one based on the Segway), which (among other things) has the virtue of raising the user up when the device is stationary. Test users apparently reported that being at eye height during conversations was transformative.

And unfortunately, iBOT has stopped maintenance on the chairs, so they are slowing going out of service with no replacement.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 5:23 AM on July 13, 2015 [5 favorites]


Oh and please push in chairs in public places as you get up so they are not obstacles for others trying to navigate the room. I see this cafes all the time.
posted by dog food sugar at 5:26 AM on July 13, 2015 [6 favorites]


(sorry missed the edit window: I mean chairs at tables not wheelchairs) pardon that being unclear.
posted by dog food sugar at 5:33 AM on July 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


This is great. I'd like to see a similar list for people in crowds in the presence of wheelchairs. I have a friend who needs to use a wheelchair when attending things that would otherwise require hours of standing and walking. He, I, and the wheelchair add up to about 600 lbs. It is a bad idea to squeeze in front of us in a crowd. I do try my best to stop, of course.
posted by FishBike at 5:34 AM on July 13, 2015


What? Why not?

Hospital grade equipment (which is what you get standard) is built for durability, not user interface. It works but is not fun nor easy.

One of the things that slightly peeves me is all the hoopla surrounding fancy wheelchairs or prosthetics that are super lightweight or customizable or some other clearly really transformational medical device... and all these things are really (REALLY) out of the price range of the vast majority of folks who need them.
posted by edgeways at 5:41 AM on July 13, 2015 [13 favorites]


My wife sometimes uses a wheelchair and I'm pushing and here's what I learned:

Have fun with it. An occasional wheelie or quick job can be delightful. The jog is best done on ground where you have a clear line of sight for bumps or dips, which can really dampen the fun.

Decorate the wheelchair, to make it more of thing.

People are usually pretty nice about making room, but don't be afraid to ask.

Putting a bag on the back makes an excellent carrying sack. Very useful for carrying liquids when its hot, so you the pushee don't get dehydrated.

A lot of this stuff and the rules in the link are subjective to time, weather and mood. The big thing is to be open with how the passenger is feeling and how you're feeling. Some days, those big slopes really are just too much and that's ok.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:58 AM on July 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


And unfortunately, iBOT has stopped maintenance on the chairs, so they are slowing going out of service with no replacement.

The FDA reclassified them from class III to class II, meaning less regulation and testing required, and the company has claimed to be working on version 2.0.
posted by vogon_poet at 6:01 AM on July 13, 2015 [6 favorites]


The FDA reclassified them from class III to class II, meaning less regulation and testing required, and the company has claimed to be working on version 2.0.

That's good to know! I tried to find an update and couldn't find anything from before 2013.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 6:02 AM on July 13, 2015


and all these things are really (REALLY) out of the price range of the vast majority of folks who need them

You would think, as a society, we would have an interest in doing something about that.

Of course, as a librarian, I think that database vendors have an interest in making interfaces that would be navigatable by people with screen readers, but, evidently, that is crazy-person thinking....
posted by GenjiandProust at 6:03 AM on July 13, 2015 [6 favorites]


You would think, as a society, we would have an interest in doing something about that.

Yeah for sure. But we (America) tends to be pretty whack in regards to anything medical. Overpriced and elitist. I've a friend/acquaintance who has prosthetic legs, the damn things (and he'll be the first to say this) is about three steps removed from a wooden peg leg. And, like wheelchairs, that's standard. Kinda durable, cheap and kinda works. Still hurts, and often times going without is easier/less painful. Those re-curve carbon fiber artistic legs are soooooooo out of what he'd (and just about anybody) be able to afford that having them out there is more supercrip feel good chatter then 'revolutionary'.

Anyways... Yes. Disability etiquette, feeds right into universal design, which frankly given the # of our aging population just makes incredible sense.
posted by edgeways at 6:14 AM on July 13, 2015 [5 favorites]


Oh, the cost... So: recently severely visually impaired (not blind, but it looked for a while like it might end up there. Still might, but...) but hey, techno-whizz, right?

I quickly learned that a lot of the things that might be really useful - the screen readers that are specially designed for MS Office, the customised Android distro - are also incredibly expensive, to the point where you really have to have someone else buy them for you. And I think that's a big part of the problem: if you're a big corporate who has to accommodate your VI employees, that swiftly becomes an HR/compliance problem - can you tick the boxes to show you've taken the legally mandated steps? At which point, you throw money at the solution that ticks those boxes most easily and least ambiguously, which means something from a company that has learned to provide exactly this and knows the maximum price point that the corporate body will pay. (See also - educational/government body).

Note that this is highly non-optimal for finding the appropriate solution for the end user even within the organization, who'll be given what they're given, and ensures that people who don't have a large budget will be completely unable to afford it. It also cripples the market in various interesting ways: the periodic revolutions in corporate tech that roll in from Planet Consumer don't happen here.

The good thing is, these sorts of things do tend to be rubbish, so you're not really much disadvantaged at not being able to get them. And there is so much variation in disability that you're going to end up finding what mix of standard OS/UI features can be customised to make things work for you, plus whatever utilities patch around the edges. (Believe me, if you find UI/UX stuff bad with your puny human eyes, try having to navigate with the help of computers. It's very, very, very bad.)

And my disability is sensoral, and there is so much we can do with data to bypass this, so I'm lucky. The physical disability that needs actual machinery to help is the wrong side of Moore's Law.

Disabled people are invisible - and that's the ones with visible disabilties. Where they are visible, they are badly served. Designing the world to be better for disabled people would make it better for the able-bodied/sensored, believe me... and here's the parting shot for the filthy stinking young people with their immortal self-repairing bits: you will be disabled yourself, and sooner than you think. Make the world better now, while you can!
posted by Devonian at 6:23 AM on July 13, 2015 [15 favorites]


actually, my boyfriend loves walking with me as I roll in my wheelchair because people part like the Red Sea. It could be one of two explanations:
1) People are kind and will inconvenience themselves to get out of my way
2) I usually I am talking as I roll, glancing my walking partner and saying weird shit like AND SO THEN ON HANNIBAL MASON PULLS UP LIKE HE'S AT A MONSTER TRUCK RALLY and my arms are ropy with muscle and I'm all tan and tattooed and generally nine times out of ten whatever is coming outta my mouth is insane. So people are like -- that is one crazy woman in a wheelchair AND SHE'S COMING RIGHT FOR US RUN.

It's #2
posted by angrycat at 6:27 AM on July 13, 2015 [74 favorites]


Fancy wheelchairs also are not miracles. My mom with Parkinson's wanted one so bad, but all she could do with the test drive was ram the thing into the side wall over and over. Also don't leave a patient's wheelchair at the nursing home because she will be using someone else's when you come back and hers will be nowhere to be found.
posted by Peach at 6:43 AM on July 13, 2015 [3 favorites]


I broke my dominant elbow a month ago. Many well meaning friends and family have tried to pull my backpack off, help me with my shoes, and help me get into a car. All of these well meaning helpers have come closer to breaking another limb than providing assistance. Offer help but don't assume it's needed and dive right in.
posted by cmfletcher at 6:45 AM on July 13, 2015 [8 favorites]


I'm not in a wheelchair. But I walk with a cane and I am weak as a kitten. It's hard when people grab doors out of my hands, and it happens practically every time I go through a door. Also, it's hard for me to walk through a crowd, all the bobbing and dodging is really really tiring. People sometimes make it worse when they try to help - they move closer to me, always ready to steady me, when what would really help is clear space that I know I can move into.

I use the mobility scooters at the supermarket and I sometime think of getting one for traveling my neighborhood. But I don't like sitting so low and not being able to see. I've been looking at getting something more recreational, like an electric bicycle with the seat lowered to where I can put my feet down more easily, and I could just roll around on that.
posted by elizilla at 6:49 AM on July 13, 2015 [5 favorites]


My tidbit from when I worked as a personal assistant at the Department of Rehabilitation? Do not feed the service dogs. Seriously, DO NOT FEED THE SERVICE DOGS.

I damn it, we had one aide working for us who fed my boss's service dog a hamburger right from the table. My boss was furious, because the aide was just overall grossly incompetent, but we couldn't get her fired.
posted by happyroach at 7:12 AM on July 13, 2015 [8 favorites]


weak-on-feet cane walker here. some things I would add to very reasonable suggestions being made here:

understand that for people who are iffy on their feet or walk with assisting devices or animals, escalators and revolving doors are mildly terrifying. please don't shove the revolving door too much (the door speed is for everyone), and please be patient with passing on the left in subways and whatnot at the beginning or ending of escalators. I need that time to gather myself and make sure I'm not going to get Charlie Chaplin'd in the machinery.

also in public squares and the like, people are chilling on stairs all the time. this is fine, but please don't sit next to the railings if you can help it. it's awkward to have to ask people to move or give you room every time you go down a certain set of steps.
posted by oog at 7:21 AM on July 13, 2015 [9 favorites]


The thing about iBOT is here. It does sound like there is better technology now (better batteries, tiny accelerometers) and that the new wheelchairs will likely be lighter, cheaper, and better, if they end up getting released.
posted by vogon_poet at 7:26 AM on July 13, 2015 [4 favorites]


Offer help but don't assume it's needed and dive right in.

That's right, folks. Use your words. Ask! It's really that simple.

In his day-to-day travels, Mr. Conspiracy (who is blind) gets grabbed by people who grab him by the arm and try to wordlessly drag him places. He weighs around 230 lbs and used to powerlift competitively. So they can't really move him.

Then he says "Get your hands off me. What do you think you're doing?" Sometimes they leave wordlessly. Sometimes it's a stammered "Uh, well, you looked like you needed help."

What doesn't bother him is someone saying "Excuse me, do you need a hand?"

Here's the thing about the grabby people - we know blind people of much smaller build and stature who have been dragged dangerously off course by the these people: for example, suddenly into the street ("Oh hey, you're standing near an intersection! You must want to go over there! I won't even ask you! I'm now pulling you into traffic! Whee!) and god knows where else. This happens way more often than you might think.

actually, my boyfriend loves walking with me as I roll in my wheelchair because people part like the Red Sea

Oh, I so identify with this. When I have to navigate crowds on my own, I get annoyed that I don't have him with me so we can get the Red Sea effect happening.

When we walk together, a few things are going on.

As a result of 16 years of practice, we're a pretty seamless operation when it comes to navigating together.

We are both very fast walkers by nature.

We are two dudes, walking side by side, one of whom is larger and tapping a very large white cane. Me, the sighted one, has perfected the "You had better get out of our way because we're not stopping even if you don't move" death stare that I give when we have closed the distance to people walking towards us to about six feet.

Years of experience have given me a preternatural ability to quickly size up people and determine if they're the sort who will just walk around us, or try to walk through us. My assessment is rarely incorrect. The death stare rarely fails to tip the balance in favour of the approaching party walking around us, albeit at the very last second. When collision sees imminent, my left shoulder goes forward. Someone's going down, and it's not us.

For the record, we don't, uh, blindside people - these are, more often than not, people looking directly at us. Sometimes texting and walking, but you wouldn't believe the number of people who try to intentionally walk between us when I'm guiding him.

These people get bodychecked.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 7:31 AM on July 13, 2015 [45 favorites]


DO NOT FEED THE SERVICE DOGS.

Really, don't even pet them without asking. And please don't let your own dog run up to them to say hi without asking if it's okay.

The death stare rarely fails to tip the balance in favour of the approaching party walking around us, albeit at the very last second. When collision sees imminent, my left shoulder goes forward. Someone's going down, and it's not us.

This is actually my attitude as an agressive pedestrian, especially with bikes on the sidewalk and cars who think stopping at crosswalks is a suggestion. But I've been using a cane the last few months for a knee problem and my sidewalk solution to these people is to stop and plant the cane on the ground about a foot in front of me; people who don't stop then walk into the cane instead of me. (I've also considered a t-shirt that says "I've got the right of way, a low center of gravity, and nothing to lose.")
posted by Room 641-A at 7:40 AM on July 13, 2015 [13 favorites]


The headline speaks to me. I was VERY BRIEFLY in a wheelchair last winter -- sort of at my option, actually, because we'd booked a cruise far ahead of time, and then I inconveniently broke my hip a couple months before departure. At home, I was using a walker, but that would've been exhausting on the boat. Turns out you can rent them, though.

I very, very quickly found myself getting super touchy about people trying to move me without my permission, even if they were trying to help me. It's a self-determination thing. I'm a fit, otherwise healthy guy; I can push the chair. Walk beside me so we can talk!

It's also interesting to me that, when it came to situations where I needed to carry something like a drink that interfered with my ability to push, people generally offered to push first, when what I always preferred was for them to carry the drink.

I'm very thankful my time in the chair was short (and that I've made a complete recovery since), but spending a little time in a chair is **incredibly** eye-opening.

(The other thing that happened is that I now notice wheelchairs in the same way I notice nice bicycles or other kinds of equipment. What I rented was deeply shitty, but cheap and sturdy. What I see full-time users in -- at least the ones I parse as low-cord injuries, who are able-bodied above the waist and can push themselves -- seem like incredible hot-rods that must be far easier to manage than my rental, not to mention lighter. I think some of them use the same kinds of fancy wheels you see on nicer road bikes.)
posted by uberchet at 7:57 AM on July 13, 2015 [5 favorites]


I would add that if you have to stop somewhere and walk away for a minute, make sure your passenger is NOT facing a corner or blank wall, especially if they can't turn themselves around. Turn them towards where the action is going on, or in the direction you'll be heading. Also, make sure they know you're walking away for a minute. They can't see you and may be wondering why they're suddenly in time-out. In fact, always turn the wheelchair user towards the action or speaker; I can't turn my head much, so if someone to my side starts talking to me, they get the impression I'm ignoring them unless my aide turns me.

Also, if possible, you're better off walking in the opposite direction a crowd is headed; that way, they see you coming, and you get the Red Sea effect.

If there's a bit of a crowd to watch something like a sidewalk performance, you'd think letting the wheelchair users up front would be standard etiquette (after all, we can't usually stand to see over others, yet others can see over us easily), but people in the back see only a gap in the front and decide to fill it. When they make their way up front they either manage to completely miss the giant honking wheelchair behind them or they kind of tilt their bodies so they're hovering right in your line of sight. Driver, please bat them away for me.
posted by Soliloquy at 8:01 AM on July 13, 2015 [7 favorites]


greenhornet:

There needs to be something similar for vision-inpaired people. And I have broken almost all of the "assisting helping vision-impaired" rules.

1. Don't hold out your hand when greeting a blind person unless you are happy to have it left hanging out there in space. Instead, greet people with a warm verbal introduction.


Workaround - a light touch on the arm and "Hi there..." often works in a busy/crowded/loud environment where a voice saying "Hi..." could be for anyone. Useful in a roomful of multiple conversations, and particularly if you don't know the person's name.

3. When steering blind people through crowded areas, be aware of table edges (yes, I have steered a blind person into a desk)

Sighted guide tip here: if the path becomes narrow/is bristling with sharp corners, you can place the hand of your guiding arm behind your back. This moves your elbow behind you, and the person you're guiding can then fall into step directly behind you while still holding your elbow (since you are, of course, guiding them correctly by letting them hold your elbow rather than you holding on to them).

Of course, just before you drop you move your hand behind your back, preface it with: "The path's a little narrow here" or "just walking through a minefield of table corners here."
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 8:30 AM on July 13, 2015 [6 favorites]


The scene in the otherwise decent film Amilee (you know the scene) drives. me. up. the. wall.

I've long thought city mayors should spend a week in a wheelchair after (or even before) they take office.
posted by edgeways at 8:40 AM on July 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


What doesn't bother him is someone saying "Excuse me, do you need a hand?"

In terms of finesse/formality, somewhere along the line I got the impression that asking "May I [do whatever]?" is better yet, as one is saying that one wants to help, not assuming that the other person wants to be helped.
posted by mr. digits at 8:47 AM on July 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


"One of the things that slightly peeves me is all the hoopla surrounding fancy wheelchairs or prosthetics that are super lightweight or customizable or some other clearly really transformational medical device... and all these things are really (REALLY) out of the price range of the vast majority of folks who need them."

This is thankfully changing due to 3D printing technology. Hopefully they'll start to get mass produced soon.
posted by I-baLL at 8:52 AM on July 13, 2015 [3 favorites]


During my parts of two years in a wheelchair while recovering from hip surgeries (one each year for two years), I learned a lot of these. I'll add:

The average public trash can was right at my head height while I was seated in my wheelchair. Don't stop a wheelchair next to a trash can.

Toughest two years of my life. Everyone should spend at least six months in a wheelchair.
posted by swerve at 9:02 AM on July 13, 2015 [4 favorites]


One thing I didn't see mentioned is to check (verbally or visually) whether the passenger's feet are on the footrests every time you're about to start moving. If someone has a problem with foot drop (also called drop foot, because of course) or has simply put them down to stretch a bit, they will drag on the ground and that will hurt.
posted by psoas at 9:06 AM on July 13, 2015 [6 favorites]


Two tips learned from listening to other people:

Mobility: A friend who uses a wheelchair sometimes and especially when travelling has gotten in the habit of ordering a whole bunch of cheap glow sticks, and hanging them from the chair spokes and handles when she's going to be in crowds. They make her much more visible and turn the conversations into something much more pleasant. (Carrying spares to hand out to random children is also good.)

Visual impairment: One of the things I've learned at my new job (at a school for the blind) is hearing over and over again how lonely it can be for someone who's visually impaired. One of the things we got told several times during orientation is how every doorway is scary, because if you can't see the room, you don't know if your friends are there and waiting for you (unless they say something), if people are making fun of you, or all sorts of other things.

Anything you can do to reduce that helps. Saying "Hi" and your name if you come up on someone. If you're meeting someone, being specific (a landmark in the space they can also find) so they can figure out if you're there already. Asking if someone who's hovering in the doorway can find where they'd like to be, and can you help explain the layout of the room.
posted by modernhypatia at 10:15 AM on July 13, 2015 [3 favorites]


In terms of finesse/formality, somewhere along the line I got the impression that asking "May I [do whatever]?" is better yet, as one is saying that one wants to help, not assuming that the other person wants to be helped.

While I don't speak for blind people, what I'm told is that, you know, all other things being equal (i.e., you haven't had a shit day at work, or the person asking is not like the tenth person in the last fifteen minutes to offer help when the previous nine have been grabby and/or patronizing) just being polite and asking the question in a non-patronizing way (as you've described) meets the bar for decent behaviour.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 11:06 AM on July 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


"Oh, I so identify with this. When I have to navigate crowds on my own, I get annoyed that I don't have him with me so we can get the Red Sea effect happening."

Chiming in as a VI person to say that the red sea effect is the best when you're a metal fan. Cane up, stride forward, and those people are gonna move no matter what. It's beautiful.

One thing I've begun to experience having just moved to Chicago is the sheer number of people that involve themselves in my space unbidden. I came from rural Indiana and those folks stayed the hell out of my business. Here, I can't stop at an intersection without at least once a day someone inserting themselves into my travel. Fortunately, they're usually the considerate type.

Even after almost thirty years of blindness I still struggle with the magical line between honest assertiveness and dickishness. It's a very difficult line to walk when you get patronizing shitheels determining that their way is the right way. Especially true since in my experience, the majority of the public isn't trying to be difficult or rude. Sometimes there are emotional casualties though. I can't be expected to be poised with every person I encounter.

Here's another one:

I'm blind. That means the issue with me involves eyesight. Do not assume I can't handle a flight of stairs. My most recent landlord just did this to me. Queue me rushing out the door after the showing and booking it down the flight of stairs at top speed. The guy nearly had a heart attack. Be an example in your day to day life. Making people uncomfortable by existing independently can actually be an awesome experience from time to time.

The wheelchair stuff is very informative. Nobody is exempt from their own ignorance, not even other disabled people. Thanks for sharing this.
posted by Ephelump Jockey at 11:30 AM on July 13, 2015 [20 favorites]


My additional notes from when I was in a chair:

streetcar rails are dangerous. Approach them straight on, or expect a sudden jerking stop as your front wheels get caught.

Those damned yellow cobbly ramps at intersections are a pain. The cobbles are supposed to be a hint for the blind; they are a hazard for the wheelchair.

Plush carpet is torture; like pushing through sand. I'd happily let someone push me in a convention hall with nice carpet.
posted by blob at 11:43 AM on July 13, 2015 [4 favorites]


Thanks for the useful tips, everyone!
posted by daisyk at 11:53 AM on July 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


Making people uncomfortable by existing independently can actually be an awesome experience from time to time.

One of my favorite hobbies. (And arguably a fairly effective form of activism.)
posted by spaceman_spiff at 12:06 PM on July 13, 2015 [8 favorites]


My mother spent a few years off & on in wheelchairs; just by chance I'd previously read something about how a lot of people tend to talk to the person pushing the chair, ignoring the person IN the chair, as if they were no more than a mass of laundry or something. I remembered that when Mom first had to use a chair, and always made it a point to treat her as the sentient being she was.

I asked her once months later if that was true, that people talk to the chair's pushers but not so much the occupant: she said it was what she hated most about having to use the thing.
posted by easily confused at 1:27 PM on July 13, 2015 [5 favorites]


"she said it was what she hated most about having to use the thing."

Yep. Total dehumanization. I'll never understand what makes people do this, and it's the most blood-boiling, rage-inducing, bile-raising, jaw-clenching fucking thing on the planet. Never do I want to throttle another human being more.

I bond with minorities often. Having a disability got me interested in radical politics. Being so immediately judged for something I had no control over is a tender spot that I think people of color especially can understand. Now I don't want to grouse about being disabled, because it's not the end of the world. But I'll say this. No minority out there has to deal with being dehumanized on such a blatant level. If I need to check my privilege, someone help me out there. But I've never seen this happen to any other minority in such a brazen way. Not that subtle dehumanization is any better, naturally.
posted by Ephelump Jockey at 3:22 PM on July 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


I interact with a variety of folks with different disabilities through both by job, social and family life. The thing that gets me through most situations, when I don't know what to do is a two step process,
1 presume competency as a baseline
2 don't be afraid to ask
posted by edgeways at 3:52 PM on July 13, 2015 [8 favorites]


This thread turned out to be serendipitously timely — thank you for posting it! As I was heading out from work this afternoon, there was a man in a wheelchair slowly making his way across the street as the signal counted down to zero and then turned red. I popped over and asked "excuse me, would you like some help out of the intersection?" He said yes and I wound up pushing him a block up to the bus stop as we chatted. Based on tips in this thread, I turned around and backed down the ramp (saying "let me just turn around so you don't feel like you're getting pitched into the street!") as we went into the street and slowed down as we approached bumps and sidewalk irregularities. It felt like a brief neighborly connection that I might have bobbled without this info.
posted by Lexica at 8:57 PM on July 13, 2015 [15 favorites]


Also

- do not touch the wheelchair user without asking. Do not ruffle my hair, pat me on the head, whack me on the shoulder. It's condescending, it's startling, and it often physically hurts.

- do not lean on the wheelchair without asking. You could break the chair, and also the chair (even sturdy powerchairs) flex when you do this, in a way that causes the chair user pain. Plus, it's just plain rude - do you lean against strangers backs or shoulders without asking them?

- if I am sitting in a powerchair on a bus or train, my shoulder is not a grab rail for you to hold! If you wouldn't grab a non-chair users shoulder to steady yourself, don't grab me! Use the hand rails instead.
posted by Year of meteors at 11:40 PM on July 13, 2015 [9 favorites]


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