Disability Etiquette 101



I recently read a few tweets from someone i follow on Twitter which really resonated with me, for the simple reason that the tweets were educating people how to interact with people on wheelchairs. There were ten tweets called “Wheelchair etiquette” and here they are:

  1. Focus on the person, not the chair.They’r still human.
  2. Respect personal space.Dont touch chair or hang yo belongings on it.
  3. Dont point/stare. If not helping with car to wheelchair transfer,give privacy.
  4. speak directly to person in whlchair not their helper.They r not invisible.
  5. dont offer your prayers & cures.Dont patronise-”you’re so brave etc.”
  6. always ask befo helping.Sometimes help might not be needed.
  7. if sharing space with whlchair user, keep obstacles away.
  8. if helping,ensure user is secure befo you push.DONT SPEED.
  9. Never underestimate a wheelchair user (”Oh you can drive!”).
  10. whlchair isnt symbol of pity but of freedom.Empathise not sympathize.

Disability etiquette is a term describing guidelines dealing specifically with how to approach people with disabilities.

Focus on the person, not the chair.

I cannot stress this enough, focus on the person not on their disability. Do not ask us “what’s wrong or what happened?” A person’s disability is none of your business, be interested in the person, who they are, what they like, their character, their disability is not your concern.

Respect personal space.

Geez this really frustrates me especially on public transport. If i am sitting on the seats allocated for people with disabilities, please do not invade my personal space by putting your stuff where i am supposed to put my crutches.

Don’t point/stare.

Please good people do NOT under any circumstances stare at people with disabilities. You have no idea how awkward it is when we catch you staring at us. Some of you at least have the decency to turn away but some of you just keep staring but guess what im gonna keep staring at you till it makes you uncomfortable and you look away. We are humans just like you, we are not some extinct dinosaurs.

Speak directly to person not their helper.

This really is self explanatory, speak to the person with the disability not their helper. It says that you care, you are interested in them, you view them as being equal which in turn empowers them.

Don’t offer your prayers & cures.Don’t patronise-”you’re so brave.

I’ve already dealt with this subject in a previous post

Always ask before helping. Sometimes help might not be needed.

If i got a dollar each time someone said to me can i help you, i reckon i would be a millionaire by now. Contrary to popular belief, people with disabilities are very capable of moving around without your help. Yes we can actually move around without your assistance how else do you think we have survived before meeting you today? One of these days i’m going to get these words printed on a t-shirt “No i don’t need your help, i didn’t learn to walk today.” Only help us if we ask you to help us cause believe me 99,9% of the time we don’t actually need your help. For example when i’m at the supermarket and i need something off the top shelf, i’m simply going to use one of my crutches to get it down.

If sharing space with a wheelchair user, keep obstacles away.

Again this is self explanatory. It’s not rocket science, please keep our paths clear otherwise we will trip and fall and that’s not going to be a pretty sight.

If helping, ensure user is secure before you push. DON’T SPEED.

Before “helping” us PLEASE ensure you know what kind of help we actually need. One of the things that really frustrates me is when i’m getting onto the tram and all of a sudden all these people run to my assistance and without even asking me, you see people literally pulling my hands in an effort to “help” me and in my head i’m screaming WHAT ON EARTH ARE YOU DOING!!!! I then simply say to the people, i’m fine i’m ok, i don’t need help. What may seem like a noble thing to help me get onto the tram actually interferes with me cause by you “helping” me you’re actually slowly me down.

Never underestimate a wheelchair user.

Please do not underestimate us. Our legs or hands may be different to yours but that does not mean we are not capable of doing things that you too can do so please don’t ask stupid questions such as oh my gosh you can do that?

Wheelchair isn’t a symbol of pity but of freedom. Empathise not sympathize.

I cannot, i cannot stress this point enough. Do not look at us with pity because guess what we don’t need your pity. If you want to understand us, please ask intelligent and relevant questions.




















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