Interacting with a person who used a wheelchair requires care and empathy. The fact is, certain adjustments have to be made in order to avoid accidents, etc. Here are a few tips on how you should talk to someone in a wheelchair.
- The best way to make a disabled person feel at ease is by ignoring the wheelchair. Talk to the person and do not focus on his or her disability so you can have a more casual and relaxed conversation. Don’t be afraid to shake their hands upon introduction, as this will make it easier for them to feel accepted.
- Maintain eye contact, just like the way you do when talking to a non-disabled person. Some wheelchair-bound people have caregivers or nurses to care for them. Avoid talking mainly to the person taking care of the disabled person because this will make the latter feel out of place and that he is being disregarded. Not only will it be disrespectful, but it can also be very frustrating on the part of the disabled to see the non-disabled person talking to a space over their heads, especially if the conversation involves him or her. Do not stare at any amputated legs, thin legs caused by the deterioration of muscle mass, or any other disfigurement as they will be able to notice if you’re looking and there’s a big chance this will offend them.
- Wheelchair users consider their wheelchairs as a part of their bodies and value the privacy of not getting touched without reason or permission. Make sure you don’t rest your hand or foot on their wheelchair unless they ask you to do so. You should never move the wheelchair while the user is in it unless permitted because disabled people may easily fall out of their wheelchairs if they have not balanced their bodies properly. Be sure to ask first before you help out a wheelchair person.
- In the same manner, you should never shove or nudge a wheelchair user even if you mean well as the person could lose his or her balance or could cause muscle spasms that may cause the person to fall out of their wheelchair. Muscle spasms are painful and involuntary muscle movements that may be caused by an injured spinal cord.
Disabled people do not need our sympathy and deserve to be treated just like any other person. Don’t focus too much on their disability and instead pay attention to the person you are talking to. Not only will it make your interaction more pleasant, but it will also make the wheelchair person feel better.