Do you have a friend or family member that is a Wheelchair User? Would you like to help while out-n-about?
Let’s break it down
#5 Tip when helping a Wheelchair User
Do NOT use the wheelchair or the person in the wheelchair as a ‘bumper car’ or means to open a door. Seriously, trying to open a door by ramming into it with the footrests of the wheelchair (you know, the part where my feet sit?) can cause serious pain and potential injury. It could also cause severe damage to the wheelchair and to the door. If there is no Disability Assisted device that will automatically open the door, communicate and come up with a safe way to gain entrance or exit.
#4 Tip when helping a Wheelchair User
Find out their preferred level of assistance from you. Sometimes, we like to take control and move our chairs ourselves but will still need assistance. I know that I need to have someone close enough that if I become fatigued, I can communicate that and they can take over. I often have a purse or backpack hooked on the back of my chair so I’ll need assistance getting to items or putting away items. Quite often I really need someone that is ‘seen’ so I do not get trampled on. Too many people do not pay attention to their environment. I’ve had several people not see me and run into my chair or trip. So far, no one has ended up in my lap (knock on wood!)
#3 Tip when helping a Wheelchair User
Find out if there any ‘hazards’ on the sidewalk or road that you definitely need to avoid or move slowly through. Our #1 pet peeve is those little round bumps in the cement ‘ramps’ to enter or exit a sidewalk area. Due to my specific pain, every little bump sends jolts through my body. If it’s Trev helping me, he’ll angle my chair and go up and over the sidewalk curb, it’s easier and eliminates all the jolts of pain. Be AWARE of rocks, gravel, or any other small obstructions on the road that you might roll over. These items may not be a big deal to walk on but, for people in pain, that little bump under the wheel can be agonizing.
#2 Tip when helping a Wheelchair User
ASK the Wheelchair User if there are any pain areas that you need to avoid bumping into. The majority of my severe pain is along my spine, lower back, and through to my hip on my left side. I’m talking pain like sometimes a fuzzy blanket will feel like steel wool. I will let people know about my pain areas and ask them to communicate with me before they attempt to get near any of those areas. I also let them know to please not put their knee in the back of the wheelchair to create leverage when going up and incline or bump. There’s very little protection back there so it feels like have a knee pushed right on my pain zones.
#1 Tip when helping a Wheelchair User
Most importantly — COMMUNICATE & LISTEN. That is where I see the biggest issue come up for people that are not used to assisting someone in a wheelchair. It happens everywhere, even with health professionals. As a wheelchair user, I have learned to give a quick rundown before I am comfortable with anyone getting behind my chair. I’ll see the nods and “ok no problem” many times and before you know it, they go at normal speed over a bump or threshold. Then it’s “Oh I’m sorry, I didn’t know that would hurt, it was just a small bump”. Please do not undervalue what your friend or family member is telling you, you definitely do not want to be the one that adds to their pain and/or discomfort.
Added note to my fellow #WheelchairUsers – Please remember to speak up loud and clear when someone does something that is painful, not practical, or could cause any harm or injury to you or anyone nearby. I have literally had to yell at an airport employee that was trying to rush to get the next tip when he caused intense pain because he was not paying attention.