Many people simply do not know how to act when comunicating with a wheelchair user. These facts from the horses mouth may help.
- Always ask the person using the wheelchair if he or she would like assistance BEFORE you help. It may not be needed or wanted.
- Don't hang or lean on a person's wheelchair because it is part of that person's personal body space.
- Speak directly to the person in the wheelchair, not to someone nearby as if the person in the wheelchair did not exist.
- If conversation lasts more than a few minutes, consider sitting down or kneeling to get yourself on the same level.
- Don't deman or patronize the person by patting them on the head.
- Give clear directions, including distance, weather conditions and physical obstacles that may hinder the person's travel.
- Don't classify persons who use wheelchairs as sick. Wheelchairs are used for a variety of non-contagious disabilities.
- When a person using a wheelchair "transfers" out of the wheelchair to a chair, toilet, car or bed, do not move the wheelchair out of reaching distance.
- Be aware of the person's capabilities. Some users can walk with aid and use wheelchairs to save energy and move quickly.
- It is ok to use terms like "running along" when speaking to a person who uses a wheelchair. The person is likely to express things the same way.
- Don't discourage children from asking questions about the wheelchair.
- Don't assume that using a wheelchair is in itself a tragedy. It is a means of freedom that allows the person to move about independently.
DDA Access auditor and Disability Awareness Trainer www.blue-badge.co.uk
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Robin is an access auditor and awareness trainer currently assisting businesses across the UK