Assisting a Paraplegic For The First Time: The Do’s and Don’ts

September 23, 2016 | 8:00 am | By Pants Up Easy

Talk about your touchy subjects! Look, we deal specifically with disabled clients in our business, so let’s be upfront about this. It’s probably kind of awkward, right? That’s perfectly normal. We all feel a little awkward in unfamiliar situations. And the last thing you want to do is offend your paraplegic friend or relative, right? We’re with you, and we’re here to help.

So let’s start with terminology. The correct term is disabled, never handicapped. And a paraplegic is a person who has limited or no function in their legs and possibly part of the trunk and/or arms. Still here? OK, great. Now let’s go over the dos and don’ts of assisting a paraplegic for the first time:

  • DO try to make the person comfortable

Be friendly and personable, and ask the person how you can be helpful. Every disabled person is different, so your level of involvement will vary. Just stay closeby and assist whenever they need you. They’ll let you know when they can’t do it alone.

  • DON’T coddle them

Again, everyone is different, but most paraplegics try to be as self-sufficient as possible. Therefore, you shouldn’t offer to help with every little thing. Give them the benefit of the doubt and don’t assume they can’t survive without your involvement.

  • DO treat this person like everyone else

Loosen up – like I just said, this is a person like anyone else! Make small talk, crack jokes, discuss sports; do whatever you’d normally do in this situation. And if you stumble or say something awkward, just roll with it. This person is a paraplegic 24 hours a day; you think they haven’t heard some weird or off-putting comments? Be yourself and they’ll see where your heart is.

  • DON’T go out of your way to bring up the chair or their condition

Which means avoiding saying things like “I know someone just like you,” or “you’re an inspiration.” Or perhaps the worst, “I was in a wheelchair once, so I know what it’s like.” You might think it’s helpful, but it’s making your paraplegic friend nuts.

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