Tips for Communicating with Someone in a Wheelchairby Alex Price
Tip: Excuse me, please don’t assume that someone in a wheelchair cannot communicate with you. The old saying is so true: “Don’t judge a book by its cover.”
I have noticed many adults have not had much experience being around people with special needs and they don’t know how to react or respond. They often avert their eyes, walk away really fast or whisper to each other. I’ve even had parents pull their children away from me as if I’m contagious. For some reason, many adults get embarrassed when they see me and turn beet red. People are often surprised when I say “hello” to them as it seems like they assumed I cannot speak or have any intelligence. People often ask the person I’m with what my name is instead of asking me directly.
Please see me as the person I am first. I am very much like you, and am a “people person.” I may have some difficulty speaking, so just be patient. I would love to have a conversation with you!
Tip: Be considerate of people using wheelchairs, especially in stores.
90% of the time when I’m in a store, people cut in front of me because I’m driving too slowly. I usually have to drive my wheelchair slowly because of the narrow doorways, aisles and display items in the way that I don’t want to crash into. Seriously, I have been in supermarkets where they have glass jars stacked in a display in the middle of an aisle. If I accidentally hit the display, it would cause broken glass to fall all over the floor risking injury to me and other customers.
Some people say “excuse me” as they pass, but many do not. I would like people to know that it is much nicer to hear an “excuse me” and then give me a chance to move out of the way.
The bottom line, if more people took the time to say “hi” and get to know someone with special needs, they would find out we are just like them. We just need a little more time and a little more room in this world. Despite it all, I do believe that things have gotten better over the past several years. I would also like to add a suggestion for anyone who owns or works in a store. Please make sure you don’t have display items blocking the aisles, especially those containing glass.
Please read my next blog, “Tips to Help People with Disabilities.”