Wheelchair Etiquette

At a recent social event I attended with my 89 year old, wheelchair bound mother I noticed there were very different ways people would approached her. I remembered a training I had attended years ago that was helpful for me and I thought it might be helpful to share some of the key points:

Speak directly to the person using a wheelchair, not to caregiver as if the person in the wheelchair did not exist. If a conversation lasts more than a few minutes, consider sitting down to put yourself at the same level as the person in the wheelchair.

Always ask the person using a wheelchair if they would like your assistance before you start to help: Do not assume they need assistance, even if to your eyes they appear to be struggling.

Be mindful when someone is approaching in a wheelchair to try to clear a pathway to make transporting easier for the care receiver as well as the caregiver.

Always let your care receiver know the actions that you intend to take with the wheelchair before you take them. Encourage the care recipient to change or shift positions in their wheelchair as recommended by their health care professional.

Always apply the wheelchair brakes when the care recipient is sitting in the wheelchair and when transferring. Don’t discourage children from asking questions of a person who uses a wheelchair about their wheelchair. Open communication helps overcome fearful or misleading attitudes.

Do you have other tips for caregivers who transport a loved one in a wheelchair?

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