Wheelchair etiquette is never an open conversation. Wheelchair etiquette is such a gray area for a lot of people on both sides of the fence. On one side, as wheelchair users, we have to deal with this situation. Each individual in a wheelchair and their functionality is completely different. There’s the reality of what’s really going on with the person, versus what people see. People should always keep an open mind and never judge a book by its cover. You always have to read the contents within.
I think there should always be common courtesy, at least opening doors that are not properly adapted like in a cab. It’s also a kind gesture. Yet, it’s a gray area because people in wheelchairs also try to be very independent and do things for themselves. So, able-bodied people don’t know what to do. They want to be kind and helpful, but they don’t want to offend someone. But in other cases, sometimes people need more help from the public then the public actually knows. I always try to keep an open mind in having common courtesy for one and other. It will always back in your favor regardless of any situation.
One of the most important things you can do is address the person, not the wheelchair. Something else to be mindful of, don’t touch the wheelchair. Try to be aware of your environment, especially when it comes to disabled parking lots or accessible bathroom stalls. You never know when a person in a power wheelchair may come along and needs to use the stall or parking space.
Wheelchair etiquette needs to be dealt with in airports, as some people take advantage. They use wheelchair services, when they are fully capable of doing things on their own, which puts a bad connotation on us. It only takes a bad few seeds to make the whole disability community look bad. That being said, we need to make sure everybody has an understanding. If we need assistance, us wheelchair users need to advocate for ourselves and let the airport staff know ahead of time. And even if you give the staff a heads up that you need assistance, you always have to have a plan B or plan C, because you never know what’s going to happen, especially when traveling. If you’re thinking about traveling by plane in your power wheelchair, Check out my tips on traveling by plane with a wheelchair.
I hope that in the future, as things are getting better in terms of accessibility and assistance, there will be more equality between the disability and able-bodied communities. Everything will be equal and fair and we don’t have to worry about this conversation of wheelchair etiquette at all. It’ll just be second nature to everyone. I hope we all grow as humans and be more conscious and actually care for one another. In the meantime, be patient and pay attention and help those around you, both people in a wheelchair and those who are able-bodied. Those kind deeds will come back to you tenfold. Always be the better person in life you can only benefit and learn from these things. And the more experiences you have, the greater understanding you will develop.
About Jesse Cuellar: Jesse is an artist and a brand ambassador for Quantum Rehab®. An accident left him paralyzed from the neck down, so he uses his mouth to paint and expresses himself through his art. Jesse lives in St. Louis, Missouri, and enjoys painting and hanging out with his friends. Click here to learn more about Jesse.