“I’m just a wheel girl in a walking world,” is one of my go-to lines when people ask me what life as a wheelchair user is like. In reality, the community isn’t really set up for a wheelchair user. What is considered “wheelchair accessible” typically isn’t, so when an able-bodied (AB) person makes your life more difficult for their own convenience you can start to get frustrated leading you to lose your patience. Here are a few habits that abled bodies can kick to show some consideration for wheel folks.
1. Speak to me, DIRECTLY, not the AB with me.
I went to the post office. I had a friend with me. I put my package on the counter, informing the clerk I needed to overnight the package. He started asking my friend for the details about the package. She told him, “speak to her, it’s her package.” I’ve heard story after story of this happening in restaurants, department stores, grocery stores, etc. Also, don’t speak louder to me because I am a wheelchair user. I have a spinal cord injury; I’m not deaf.
2. Get off your phone when you’re walking in public.
Being 4’3” in a mall or airport in 2018 is hazardous. The amount of people consumed by their phone while walking in public is alarming. It’s even more alarming when they look at me like I’m the inconsiderate one when they land in my lap. No, I will not move out of my path for your convenience.
3. Stop piling on the elevator
A packed elevator is not an invitation to continue to pack on. Do what I cannot and take the stairs. Most of you could use the exercise anyway.
4. Piling your stuff on our lap.
We are not a table to throw your things on. Also, do not ask to put your stuff on my chair or in my backpack; I am not your personal pack mule.
5. Stop Parking on the slashed lines of the parking space.
Most people with a disabled parking placard don’t even know what the white slashed lines are for. PSA IT’S A LOADING AND UNLOADING ZONE FOR WHEELCHAIR USERS. Please park correctly if you’re going to use the space.
6. Pulling your children away.
They won’t offend us and the wheelchair isn’t contagious. Children are curious creatures, let them be. It gives them a chance to learn about wheelchair users and it lets them see we are not different.
7. Moving me for your convenience.
If you want to get by me please say excuse me. DO NOT THINK IT IS OKAY TO MOVE MY CHAIR. Countless times, rather than saying excuse me someone has grabbed my chair to move me out of their way. How would you feel if someone picked you, placing you where they wanted?
8. Stop using the accessible stall to take a crap.
Your sh*t isn’t going to stink less from the larger stall. I have a neurogenic bladder, meaning I don’t have the luxury of “holding it in”. Be considerate, use the smaller stall before the accessible one.
9. Rushing out of your way to help me.
If you see me rolling towards a business and you are halfway to your car, DO NOT rush back to the door to hold it for me. Also, if you’re opening a door do not stand inside of it to hold it as I can’t get through. If I tell you I’ve got it kindly dismiss yourself.