Four Assumptions You Should Never Make About A Wheelchair User

February 22, 2016 | 8:00 am | By Pants Up Easy

There’s an old saying about assumptions that I shouldn’t repeat in polite company, but I’m sure you’ve heard it – basically, it warns us that assumptions can make us look foolish. And when you consider we live in a world of abundant information (thanks, internet), there’s really no excuse for making assumptions any more.

And that’s a good thing, because assumptions can be very dangerous. They’re usually borne out of ignorance – ignorance of the subject or of the issues at hand. And the best way for us to combat that is through knowledge. So please allow me to share some knowledge with you through these four assumptions you should never make about a wheelchair user:

That you understand the extent of their injuries

It’s virtually impossible to tell why a person is in a wheelchair at first glance. They could be paralyzed or the victim of a spinal cord injury, or they could just as easily have ALS, MS or cerebral palsy. Therefore, don’t make any assumptions about their condition. Ask if you feel it’s appropriate, but don’t guess.

That their legs aren’t functional

Many wheelchair users are paraplegic and therefore can’t use their legs. However, as mentioned above, there are lots of other reasons a person could be in a wheelchair. Heck, even if they’re paraplegic, they could still have limited function in their legs.

That they’ve always been in a wheelchair

You don’t know that person’s history, so don’t assume they’ve never been able to walk. And if they’re a newer wheelchair user, they’re probably going to need more assistance than most wheelchair users. But you won’t know that if you assume they’re a wheelchair veteran.

That they can’t have children

Spinal cord injuries and paralysis are complicated, which means there are different levels of function you can be left with. Some folks will still be able to procreate without issue or with some assistance, while others won’t be so lucky.


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