The biggest barriers people with disabilities encounter are other people
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Wheelchair safety and etiquette

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If you don’t already know someone who uses a wheelchair, chances are that at some stage during your life, you will meet and possibly have to assist someone who does. But what should or shouldn’t you do when meeting someone in a wheelchair? what are the safe ways to man-oeuvre a wheelchair in different situations?

When meeting someone in a wheelchair:
• If the situation is appropriate, offer to shake the person’s hand even if they appear to have limited use of their arms. The action of personal contact helps to break down the barrier of non-acceptance.
• Always ask the person whether they would like assistance before helping them. Never assume that a person in a wheelchair needs your assistance— they may find this patronizing.
• Never lean or hang on to a person’s wheelchair. It is a part of their personal space.
• Always speak directly to the person in the wheelchair rather than speaking only to others nearby. You may appear to be dismissing the person in the wheelchair if you do not include them in the conversation.
• Remember that many people in wheelchairs have a purely physical rather than intellectual disability, even if their speech or appearance is affected.
• If you are having a lengthy conversation with someone in a wheelchair, consider sitting or kneeling down to put yourself on the same level.
• There is rarely any need to express sympathy towards a person in a wheelchair . Sympathetic stares, comments or touches are usually well meant but may be viewed by the person in the wheelchair as demeaning. Never assume that using a wheelchair is in itself a tragedy.
• It is also not usually necessary to try to avoid the topic of the person’s disability or wheelchair use. People in wheelchairs often appreciate the opportunity to explain the nature of their disability or illness rather than have assumptions made about them.
• If a person in a wheelchair requests directions, include information about the distance, weather conditions and possible physical obstacles. These all affect the person’s ability to travel and to access certain sites.
• Do not discourage children from asking questions about a wheelchair. Open communication assists in overcoming any fear or misleading attitudes towards people with disability.
• If a person in a wheelchair has to transfer to a chair, toilet, car or bed, do not move the wheelchair out of their reach.
• Be aware of the limitations and capabilities of the person in the wheelchair and don’t be afraid to ask questions to obtain this information if necessary.