I use a scooter when I have to walk long distances. When I do I feel as if I’m a different person because of how people react to me.
People who use mobility aids such as a wheelchair, power chair or scooter are people just like you. It’s difficult enough to admit the need for these types of medical devices but to go into public to feel ignored, unsafe or unworthy makes some people who have health issues stay home unwilling to face the world, or too angry and stressed out.
To make our lives easier, there are many things you can do. I’ll provide you with suggestions on how to treat people who need an assistive device to be mobile. Please use these ideas and educate others, especially children.
It really is hurtful when your mind works just fine, yet people don’t look at you or talk to you when you’re in a wheelchair. If you feel embarrassed and don’t know what to say, at least smile and say hello. If we answer then you know the door is open for conversation. You can also just begin to talk to us. If there is a problem with our speech, most people will have another way to communicate. Just do your best. If there is a speech issue, you’re not the first person to let us know that. A smile or a kind gesture can mean the world to us.
Darting in front of a power chair makes us have to stop suddenly. This is not only a difficult maneuver, it can be dangerous for both of us and painful. Most power chairs and scooters are not made to stop on a dime. We have the issue of possibly falling over. Many of us are in pain any way. Making a sudden stop jars our bodies and can make us feel worse.
Watch Out In Crowds
Please be mindful of us especially in crowds. Teach your children this. Many assistive devices have horns but by the time we see you it can be too late to beep. We also don’t like to scare children with the loud noise of a horn. Please be watchful and look before you leap!
Many of us don’t mind questions especially from children. A child’s curiosity is normal. We have probably been asked the same questions many times and know some funny yet educational answers. We can be our best ambassadors if given the chance. This type of interaction can really open doors.
Handicapped Restrooms are for People with Disabilities
Public restrooms are a real difficulty for some of us. The handicapped stalls are for our use because we can’t get our assistive devices into the regular size stalls. Some of us need the bars to transfer from our scooter to the toilet. Please don’t use this stall because you need room for your children or because it’s open. These are designated stalls and even some of them are too small and difficult to use. (But that’s another story.)
Handicapped Parking is for Disabled People
Disabled parking is a very big topic for us. It doesn’t matter if you’ll only be 10 minutes and use up a space or if you have a placard from your sister-in-law’s aunt’s cousin, if you’re not disabled don’t use the handicapped parking spots. I refrain from saying “please” here because this has become an epidemic of sorts. Think of the person who needs to use this spot and then find another place to park.
If someone doesn’t look disabled and used a handicapped spot, don’t say confront us. Many of us have invisible illnesses, such as Lupus, Arthritis, Cardiac conditions, etc. You have no idea how we feel by looking at us.
Our Part in This
Yes we have a part to play in this too. We shouldn’t zip through crowds as if we’re on a race, or get rude with people who didn’t see us or just didn’t know. How can we expect kindness if we show disrespect?
Most of us are happy to answer questions. There are even some schools that have a disabled person visit and talk with the students to enable the children to learn about disabilities. Talk to us not only about why or how we’re disabled. Learn about us. We have jobs, families, interests and we can be great friends.