wheelchair users

Wheelchair Users
Communication Etiquette

People who use wheelchairs can hold physically demanding jobs.  They need not be confined to desk jobs.  People who use wheelchairs can be very independent, not necessarily relying on others for assistance in daily activities.  They may or may not do things differently or more slowly than others.  There is no need to be overprotective of people who use wheelchairs.

1.      Refer to this person as a “wheelchair user” rather than a “wheelchair victim” or “wheelchair bound.”

2.      Make sure all meetings and interviews are conducted at wheelchair accessible locations.

3.      Don’t automatically hold onto the person’s wheelchair.  It is part of their body space.

4.      Assistance may be offered, but don’t insist.  If the person needs help, they will accept the offer and explain exactly what will be helpful.

5.      Don’t move a wheelchair or crutches out of reach of the person who uses them.  Never start to push a person’s wheelchair without first getting permission.

6.      Speak directly to the person in the chair, not to someone nearby.  For longer conversations, pull up a chair, and sit at eye level with the person.

7.      Don’t be sensitive about using words like “running” or “walking.”

8.      Avoid classifying people who use wheelchairs as “sick.”  Wheelchairs are used for a variety of disabilities.

9.      Don’t be surprised if the person transfers from a wheelchair to a piece of furniture or gets out of the wheelchair to move about.  Some people who use wheelchairs can walk, but they choose to use a wheelchair because of stamina or balance issues. 

After the initial greeting, sit down so that a person who uses a wheelchair won’t have to crane his/her neck to look up and make eye contact.