Assisting a Wheelchair User: The Do’s And Don’ts

March 21, 2016 | 8:00 am | By Pants Up Easy

Asking for help is difficult for many people, and it can be especially bothersome to those with disabilities. Because while most folks can make do without help from others, wheelchair users aren’t always so lucky. What if there’s a door they need help opening? Or an item they can’t reach on a shelf? Unless they get some assistance, it’s going to be pretty difficult for them to accomplish. That can be a helpless feeling.

If you have a friend or family member in a wheelchair, I’m sure the last thing you want is for them to feel helpless. That’s why we’ve compiled this handy list of do’s and don’ts when assisting a wheelchair user.

DON’T provide unsolicited help

Some wheelchair users are fiercely independent, and they won’t ask for help unless they absolutely need it. That’s why you should never just start spontaneously helping someone in a wheelchair – ask them first. You could easily offend them, or they could be put off by your invasion of their personal space.

DO treat the person like everyone else

That means shake their hand like any other normal person, speak directly to them (not to a caregiver or companion) and if you’re going to have a conversation with them, have the courtesy to get to eye-level. Take a seat so the wheelchair user doesn’t have to strain their neck to talk to you. And DO NOT stare. Many wheelchair users report that is frighteningly common.

DON’T touch the wheelchair unless allowed

Again, this goes back to personal space. The wheelchair is nearly an extension of the person’s body, and would you want someone to just randomly push your body or rest their foot upon it? Don’t treat the wheelchair like some piece of furniture. It’s much more than that to the user.

DO communicate clearly with the wheelchair user

It’s important that the wheelchair user feels physically comfortable, since being uncomfortable could cause balance issues or slipping. Additionally, you want the user to be relaxed when transferring, to prevent mistakes. So talk with the wheelchair user and always ensure they feel comfortable at every stage. And every time you’re going to do something to the wheelchair, such as turn it, tilt it, etc., communicate it clearly to the user first. You don’t want them to be surprised by a sudden movement.

DON’T be reckless with the wheelchair

The chair may be durable, but there’s a vulnerable person sitting in it. So don’t be reckless with the wheelchair by doing wheelies or quick turns or the like. If the wheelchair gets stuck, don’t try to use brute force to yank it out. Instead, stop pushing the chair and find the root of the problem. And finally, never take a steep slope forwards – always pull the wheelchair backwards down such a slope.

DO take some time to look around our blog and read about our products

If you’re interested in more information about spinal cord injuries, wheelchair life or how to assist wheelchair users, I advise you to check out our blog. If you or someone you know is in a wheelchair, I highly recommend that you look at our products. Pants Up Easy was created to make daily life much simpler (and quicker) for wheelchair users, and it does the job nicely.

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