August 7, 2015 | 9:50 am | By Pants Up Easy
Those who live their life in a wheelchair are somewhat accustomed to other people being unsure of how to approach them. While most people do not have negative thoughts or feelings toward wheelchair users, they may feel awkward approaching them or asking questions. When it comes down to it, for the most part wheelchair users simply want to be treated as equals rather than as if they have a disability that sets them apart. Below you will find a list of the five things every wheelchair user wants us to know.
Of course, a wheelchair user has a disability that requires the assistance of a wheelchair. Aside from that, they are normal human beings. Assuming that you won’t be able to communicate with them or that you should treat them differently simply because they are in a wheelchair is a bit offensive. When you first come into contact with someone in a wheelchair, don’t immediately acknowledge his or her situation. Instead, greet them as you would anyone else and try to get to know them as a person, not a wheelchair user.
Although wheelchair users want to be treated as equals, there are some situations where they will need a bit of special treatment. It’s important to never park in a handicapped parking space, or to use a wheelchair accessible restroom when it can be avoided. Access to these things is essential for wheelchair users in their daily lives. While you may think you are doing no harm by parking in a handicapped spot and running into the store for a quick errand, you may be keeping a wheelchair user from being able to enter the store at all. Overall, remember to be considerate of the needs of wheelchair users in your day-to-day life.
You may think because you have a friend of a friend that is a wheelchair user that you should mention it to any wheelchair user that you encounter. But you may be surprised to know that most wheelchair users spend the majority of their time with the same people they did before they were in a wheelchair. While they may potentially have met other wheelchair users during physical therapy or in a support group, they most likely don’t know every wheelchair user in town.
Don’t make quick assumptions about a wheelchair users situation. Some people are in a wheelchair for a relatively short period of time, while others will require wheelchair assistance for the rest of their lives. Some are in the wheelchair because of a tragic accident, while others have a debilitating condition that has resulted in wheelchair use. After you have gotten to know someone quite well, you may feel comfortable asking questions to find out more about why they are in their chair and what their prognosis may be. But until that time, refrain from prying or sharing your opinions based on assumptions you may have made.
While it may initially be frustrating or disappointing for a person to require the use of a wheelchair, many wheelchair users come to embrace their situation. Saying you are sorry for their condition or that you wish things were different for them just points out the fact that you feel they deserve your sympathy. In reality, most wheelchair users go on to lead extremely fulfilling lives. Many become involved with sports and activities that they never would have attempted in the past, and others become advocates and volunteers that make a difference in the community. Just because someone is in a wheelchair doesn’t mean their life is sad. In fact, it may mean the exact opposite.