Interacting with Mobility Device Users

mobility device users
Earlier this month, EZ-ACCESS wrote an article which focused on how to spread awareness of accessibility.  We encouraged individuals with disabilities to volunteer, become advocates and pursue excellence in education or their career.  To support these efforts, EZ-ACCESS is drawing attention this week to interaction with mobility device users.
The topic of interaction with mobility device users may seem like common sense to those of us who are in wheelchairs, have a loved one in a mobility device or work with mobility device users, but I’m sure you can think of individuals you’ve encountered who do not find these interactions to come naturally.  Instead of becoming offended, break down barriers by sharing these simple tips:

  1. Respect wheelchair users through awareness of your surroundings.  In the shopping mall or your local grocery store, avoid taking up the entire aisle and try to avoid stopping suddenly.  Be sure to share aisles with individuals trying to get around you and walk in the same manner that you would drive a car.
  2. Don’t assume you know the abilities of the individual in the mobility device.  People use mobility devices for many different reasons.  For example, just because someone is in a wheelchair, it doesn’t mean they are paralyzed.  They may be able to take a few steps and are using the wheelchair because they are unable to stand for long amounts of time or possibly have a heart condition.
  3. Greet and speak directly to the individual in the mobility device.  Reach out and offer a hand shake no matter the individual’s condition and address the individual directly.  Consider standing a few feet away so the mobility user does not have to crank their neck to talk with you or offer to move to an area where you can sit down while interacting.
  4. Don’t shy away from figurative expressions such as “let’s go for a walk” as they are not taken literally.  Also, consider avoiding observations that could be taken as patronizing or belittling.  This includes comments such as “Wow that moves fast” or comments that bring up the mobility device unless you have a valid question about it.
  5. Finally, avoid patting the individual or their mobility device unless you have permission.  For individuals with back or spinal problems, this could be painful or the gesture could be taken as patronizing.

Do you have any tips or instances in which you or a loved one was offended by an interaction relating to the use of a mobility device?