If you have questions about how to be considerate of someone who uses a mobility aid, keep reading to learn the proper etiquette…
Upon introducing yourself to someone with a mobility disability, treat them as you would any other new acquaintance. Offer a handshake, make eye contact and speak normally. If your conversation lasts longer than a few minutes, sit down so you can be at eye level with them. Keep up-to-date on preferred terminology when referring to those with disabilities. Teach your children to be polite when asking questions.
2. Mobility Aid Etiquette
It’s important to remember that a person’s mobility aid (cane, power wheelchair, power scooter, manual wheelchair, etc.) is an extension of himself or herself. As such, include the aid when you are considering their personal space. Don’t handle or touch their mobility aid and always ask permission before trying to help or push them. Don’t pet guide dogs or other service animals.
3. Independent Living
Many people who depend on a mobility aid aren’t “sick” and don’t require much assistance with daily living. Many live on their own and are able to do almost everything that anyone else can do. Don’t assume that being in a wheelchair is a “tragedy” when, in fact, it is very helpful for conserving energy and maintaining an individual’s freedom of movement.
For those using mobility aids such as power scooters, many physical obstacles must be considered when visiting the homes of family and friends and while in public, both indoors and outdoors. Narrow hallways and doorways, non-remote entry doors, stairs and curbs can be difficult to navigate. Toilets, showers and sinks can be hard to use. Accessible public transportation may not be available. Be aware of these possible obstacles and offer to help them or give an alternative, more accessible place to meet.
5. Be an Advocate
If you are concerned about disability rights, be an advocate! You can help by:
Writing public officials to raise consciousness about accessibility and disability issues.
Raising the awareness of your employer about office inaccessibility and ensuring that hiring practices are nondiscriminatory.
Educating your friends and family on proper etiquette and terminology for those with disabilities.
Filing a complaint with the appropriate government agency under the ADA if you see a legal infraction or witness discrimination by a government or public entity.
Becoming involved with a disability advocacy organization.
We all have differences and when we realize that fact, individuals no longer will be defined only by their disability, but by who they are on the inside.