Welcome back, class! If you’ve lost your notes from lecture 101, you can find it here.
By now, maybe you’ve walked around with a wheelchair and encountered some other issues. This time I’d like to share some of my stories and tips about the behaviour of other people, when encountering a wheelchair.
[Picture of a woman in a wheelchair and a man kneeled besides her, smiling at each other.]
- People aren’t used to it. They won’t see you and they’ll walk against the wheelchair. It’s possible you hit someone’s heels, but usually it’s actually their fault. Because they aren’t looking and they are walking just everywhere. With a wheelchair it’s more difficult to have an immediate stop. People suddenly change direction and you can’t act that fast. They will usually blame the wheelchair user (not the pusher), but soon you learn not to feel sorry when it’s their fault.
- Don’t be too polite. This might sound odd, but I encounter so many people who will stand in front of the wheelchair user, so you won’t see a thing. Or jump the queue, block the road and don’t want to move even though it’s a lot easier for them and they always cut you off. Don’t accept it if 40 people are cutting you off and decided to take the small hallway/street first, even though you were already taking it and unblocked it first. This happens way too often and it’s really irritating if you have to keep waiting every time, even though it’s not fair. Also, you easily lose a group, if you’re having a tour for example. Because you are usually slower than people who don’t have to push a wheelchair as well.
- They might not hear the wheelchair user. I understand if you want to give an user some independency. And want to let him/her do some things by him/herself. However, they often won’t hear you (or everyone pretends, I don’t know yet), so then it would be nice if you could get the other person’s attention. Of course after that, the wheelchair user can probably do the talking again 😉 Keep in mind that they might be surprised, they often think a wheelchair user is very dumb and can’t speak.
- Wheelchair users often can’t reach things. It seems very obvious, right? Yet, people often forget and might even become angry, because I’m just ‘standing’ there. I can’t reach ‘high’ things or things that are ‘deep/far away’, while a standing person could. A bit like you have a 2-year-old with you (only on that part!)
- Always go straight up bumbs and ramps etc. Ok, this has nothing to do with other people and I’ve already mentioned this in lecture 101, but it’s very important. You really need to walk straight. Too often, I encounter people who want to … I don’t know, cut off a bit? Well, they will push me up from a weird angle and then the wheelchair will collapse. So just straight lines please 😉 Also keep in mind that you can’t just let go and let the wheelchair user ride themselves up a hill/ramp etc. It’s a lot harder to ride yourself than to push someone in a wheelchair.
- Other people won’t really understand if something is wheelchair accessible or not. You have to keep using your own eyes. People will block the way for you with themselves or with objects, thinking you can easily squeeze yourself till you are 1/4 of the width. Or they will keep standing on the pavement, because you can ‘so easily’ get on and off the damn thing (NOT). Or they will say their entrance is wheelchair accessible, since it’s only twenty stairs and extremely narrow.
Well, that’s enough information for now. I hope you’ll find navigating with a wheelchair even easier and that it’ll become more fun. See you next time 😉