Over the years, I have learned a lot of people are coming to understand and be more aware of people who use wheelchairs, so things aren’t ask awkward as they used to be. There is a lot more courtesy out there now, which is always a plus. It didn’t always used to be this way. Now, I’ve been on both sides of the fence. I started out life as an able-bodied person and then became a quadriplegic after my accident. I understand it from both points of view. If you are an abled-bodied person, here are a few things to know when you encounter wheelchair users like me.
First of all, don’t talk to me like I am a simpleton. I want an able-bodied person to just ask me if I needed any assistance or whether there is anything they can do to help me. Don’t talk down to me, as if I don’t know how to speak regular English. And please, don’t shy away from me. Say something to me, like saying hello. You should go out of your way to say hello to someone, including a person in a power wheelchair or manual wheelchair. Nine times out of ten, those same folks would say hi to an able-bodied person.
I have seen some able-bodied people try to take advantage of people in wheelchairs. I had one of these brief interactions the other day. People who run businesses will try to get pictures of people in power chairs and manual wheelchairs when they’re happy because it makes their business look better. If you’re going to do this, I insist that you ask the person before taking his or her photo in any establishment.
Don’t ask me about my sex life. I can’t speak for everyone, but I’d rather not answer questions from able-bodied people about my sex life if they aren’t my close friends or family. It is not your business and it’s no concern of yours. It’s one thing if someone knows you or is close to you. It’s another thing to have a complete stranger or acquaintance asking personal questions like that. It won’t be tolerated. It’s the same thing if an able-bodied person asked another able-bodied person they don’t know or just met about their past sexual encounters with others.
Above all, able-bodied people need to be diligent in maintaining courtesy to others, including wheelchair users. We are all human beings and all want to be treated with respect.
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.