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Олена Зеленська

How to interact with a person using a wheelchair

12.04.2022

A wheelchair is not like a cart we use at the supermarket. This is part of a person’s personal space, so you shouldn’t touch or move it without their permission. This also applies to crutches and other aids.

If you see a support or guide dog next to a person (they often have a yellow ribbon on their collar), remember that this dog is on duty. That is, it cannot be touched, stroked, called out to, etc.

Important: most wheelchair users prefer the term “walk”, not “ride”. But it is best to ask them for the term they would like you to use.

When talking to a wheelchair user, it is appropriate to use phrases such as “Let’s go for a walk” or “Would you like to go for a walk with me?”.

Sometimes people feel confused when they take joint photos at events: they do not know if they should squat in the photo or stand behind the person using the wheelchair, or to kneel next to them.

You can put a chair next to the person and sit on it, or you can pose standing up. Again, you can ask a person how they would feel more comfortable.

The most important part of any interaction with a person with a disability is to focus on the person, and not on the disability itself. Wheelchairs or other aids are there to help the user, not to create a barrier between you.

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