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Tips For Interacting With A Person In A Wheelchair

Aug 13, 2008
It can be unclear how to address and interact with a person in a wheel chair to a person that has never had extended exposure to a disabled person. It may be uncomfortable for both. Having never been exposed to a disabled person one may feel like you dont know where to look, dont know if it is ok to talk about certain subjects like the wheel chair or the disability. Not sure what can or can not be talked about or suggested. These are just a few of the things that are unknown to the person that is learning about how to interact with a disabled person in a wheelchair.

For this reason I felt it would be helpful to dispel some of the myths about the subject and ease some of the anxiety about the topic. On the other hand after one uses these suggestions and a lot of common sense the only other way to learn is to jump in and try and also to ask. In many cases the person in the wheelchair will be willing and able to talk about the disability and will express their preferences if someone were to ask their opinion.

That said, here are a list of seven suggestions that will smooth the transition to a more understanding person with confidence in dealing with disabled persons in wheelchairs.

Number One, remember they are a person just like you other than their ability to be mobile is hampered.

Number two, offer assistance but dont assume they want any. Your help can be a hindrance at times depending on the situation. Remember the person in the wheelchair is used to maneuvering in it so like any skill there are tricks that you may not understand of even think are possible. Ask first.

Number three, the chair is a part of the persons personal space and it is not acceptable to hang onto or fiddle with the chair. In some cases the owner may feel it is an extension of their body so treat it as such.

Number four, when speaking to a person in a wheelchair try to in most all cases get to eye level if possible and especially if the conversation lasts more than a minute or so. Both of you will avoid having sore necks from a long conversation straining to make eye contact and it wont appear you are talking down to them.

Number five, dont pat a person in a wheel chair on the head. They are not a pet and this can be very demeaning as if they are somehow on another level. This is very disrespectful and patronizing.

Number six, do not assume a person in the wheelchair wants you to move their wheelchair if they transfer into another kind of seat. Please be respectful of the owners wishes and ask what would be best for them. You are not in a position of authority and their wishes need to be respected.

Number seven, people in wheelchairs have varying abilities and you should never assume they are incapable of helping themselves and as stated several times here it is always best to ask and let the person take the lead. Respectfully ask what level of help is needed and then follow those wishes.

Obviously these are only the beginning of forming an attitude of respect towards the person in a wheelchair and each individual has different needs and desires. This is an area of society that has unique and often misunderstood preferences and it is necessary to approach them with common sense and learn to adapt.

Use your head, ask questions and be respectful of the situation and the person and you will go a long way in helping the person in a wheelchair without offending or putting both of you in an uncomfortable situation.
About the Author
Copyright Detro Canaro (2008) Detro Canaro is a husband, a father, a writer, computer geek and webmaster of several websites that support he and his family. One of those websites offers Cheap Wheelchairs.
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