Each handicap is like a hurdle in a steeplechase, and when you ride up to it, if you throw your heart over, the horse will go along, too. ~~Lawrence Bixby

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Some etiquette and common sense...

...regarding people with mobility devices:

Sometimes I wish I could engage a protective bubble around my body when I’m in a crowd. It is a vulnerable feeling when one has balance issues and the potential for getting bumped or jostled is high. Here are a few things to keep in mind that will make life easier for people with mobility challenges (pardon the shifting POV):

  •  If you see someone using a cane, give them plenty of space. They are likely to be a bit wobbly, and any sudden bump, or even the potential for one, can be distressing at best and dangerous at worst. 
  • If someone with a cane is standing in line, DON’T cut in front of them to get through. It’s startling and has the potential to set off a domino effect. There is extra space around me in a line for a reason – and the reason is NOT for people to pass in front of me. (This could also be true for a walker user, depending on how stable they are; always err on the side of caution.) 
  •  If someone is in a wheelchair or scooter or walker, pay attention to how you engage with them. It’s easy to feel left out of a conversation and very uncomfortable when I have to strain my body to participate. If I’m standing with my walker, I can’t turn around quickly or easily to talk with someone. If I'm sitting on my scooter, I have to crane my neck to listen or speak if you stand off to the side or behind me. Place your body near or in front of me when conversing; look me in the eye. If you can’t see my face, I can’t see yours and I certainly don’t feel part of the conversation. This is especially true when two or more people are chatting with me. I know it’s not intentional, but it is so challenging to feel connected when I’m so disconnected physically. 
  •  I’m one who doesn’t mind talking about my physical challenges, but not everyone feels that way. Ask if it’s OK to talk about it or to ask questions. I will probably give you way more information than you want! 
  • The same applies around asking to help. I love it when people say, “Let me know if I can help” but I’m not fond of people assuming that I can’t manage things on my own. I’m very good about asking for help when I need it, but not everyone is – that’s why asking is so important. (See my earlier post for more guidelines on this subject.)
  • When you're planning an event - party, concert, etc. -- try to use a venue that's fully accessible. That means access to the building and to the area where the event is, accessible bathrooms (and preferably ADA, with grab bars and toilets that aren't made for a first grader!), and access to food areas. If there are tables and chairs check for paths for people using walkers or wheelchairs. This seems like a lot to ask, and may not be possible at times, but being excluded from events due to lack of access sends a hurtful message. If you can't provide access, let people know so they don't show up and find they can't participate. It still may not feel good, but at least they will have the information ahead of time. 
That's it for now. It seems like a lot to take in, but really, it's common sense. We're just not conditioned to think about these things. But I'm making progress in training my friends!


dohlink said...

Thank you for making me and others aware. None of us know when we will be the one with the cane, walker, or wheelchair. If nothing else does it, that thought should go toward making us more sensitive to the needs of others in this situation.

Michele S. said...

Thanks, Terri! The roots of the word "educate" mean to lead out (of darkness, ignorance), and your blog does just that. Thank you for taking the time to educate those who currently do not have mobility issues.

Anonymous said...

Some useful thoughts for including, encountering people with mobility disabilities.

Amanda Perl said...

Hi Terri, great post!
A couple other tips I would add about speaking with people with different disabilities: if you are talking with someone in a wheelchair or scooter, either sit down so you are on a level with them or step back so they can comfortably look at you and not crane their neck. Also, when talking with someone with dementia, turn your body at an angle so your shoulder points towards them, rather than squaring up your shoulders. This is because people with dementia have a more limited field of vision than others, and if you square up to them they can't see anything but you when they turn to look at you, but if you position yourself at an angle they can see other things around you. It's less invasive that way.