Monday, 21 December 2015

20 Things Not to Say/Do to Someone in a Wheelchair

As a wheelchair user I've experienced quite a varied reaction from the able-bodied public, so I thought I'd share a few things that you shouldn't say or do to those of us that use wheels.

1. 'I'm only parking here for five minutes.'
- No, you're really not, it's a disabled bay, you don't have a permit, get out of my space. I need this larger bay to get my wheelchair out of my car. Move.
2. 'What have you done to your leg?'
- Why would you ask a stranger such a personal question? It's extremely rude and intrusive, and why assume I'm using a wheelchair because my legs don't work?
3. 'You're too pretty to be in a wheelchair.'
- Now, that's a backhanded compliment if I've ever heard one. Disability doesn't discriminate, I can still be fabulous and use a wheelchair.
4. 'Can I have a go?'
- Oh, but of course, I'll just go for a run whilst you go for a ride in my wheelchair. No. No. No.

5. Don't speak to the person pushing me instead of me.
- I have a voice, I'm an intelligent person, I can answer for myself.
6. 'At least you don't have to walk anywhere, I'm knackered.'
- Yeah, because who would want to walk places and not be in agony?
7. 'You're such an inspiration.'
- I never get this one; how am I? I'm shopping for food, so inspirational.
8. 'I'd rather be dead than in a wheelchair.'
- Bloody hell, calm down, it's not that bad. It takes some getting used to and it's difficult but surely living a life with adaptions is better than not living at all.
9. Don't bend down to talk to me.
- I'm not a child, do you know how patronising that is?
10. 'Oh god, you can walk? What are you using that for then?'
- SHOCK HORROR! We all use wheelchairs for various reasons; I use a wheelchair due to pain, fatigue, dislocations. I can't walk that far, I can't stand for long. Don't assume that because someone is using a wheelchair their legs don't work.
11. 'How do you drive a car?'
- I have an adapted vehicle, my legs work, just not as well as I'd like them to. Don't look shocked then you see me getting out of my wheelchair and into the drivers seat of a car.

12. Don't move me out of your way.
- Don't ever think it's okay to grab my wheelchair and move me without my consent. If I am in your way, don't push my chair or tut, ask me politely and I'll gladly make some space.
13. 'Do you know Dave? He uses a wheelchair too.'
- Yes, every single person in the whole world that uses a wheelchair knows each other. How naive.
14. 'I used a wheelchair when I broke my leg, I know exactly how you feel.'
- You have no idea how I feel, you'll have been wearing a plaster cast and everyone with a brain would have been able to acknowledge you've suffered from an acute injury. You won't have experienced ableism or the grief, sadness, acceptance of having to use a wheelchair full-time.

15. Don't pat me on the head.
- Oh my days, do not do this or I will run you over. I'm not an animal, it's so rude and patronising.

16. 'Your partner must be a saint for putting up with you in that.'
- No, he's not a saint, he's a normal guy that loves a girl who happens to be in a wheelchair.

17. Don't lean on my wheelchair.
- It's not worth it, I will punch you.

18. 'Bloody hell, slow down or you'll get a speeding ticket.'
- What a comedian, if only your motor-mouth could get a ticket.
19. 'You're too young to be in a wheelchair.'
- There's no age limit. Wheelchairs aren't only for the elderly, my body is broken and hates me, therefore I need this is live a 'normal' life.

20. Don't take a picture of me when I stand up from my wheelchair.
- Don't assume everyone in a wheelchair can't walk, and DO NOT take pictures or make memes of disabled people.
A wheelchair is freedom, it means I can go out and do things. I wouldn't be able to walk around a shopping centre, I can barely walk to my car from my house. My current wheelchair is a pacing strategy that helps me be able to do things without excessive pain or fatigue. 

A wheelchair can be used for various conditions, so please think before you ask a ridiculous question. 


  1. Beautifully written as always Sarah! I'm saddened by each of these, but unfortunately none surprise me. Today I was asked in the middle of the co-op what was wrong with me for me to need crutches. The thing that surprised me was that it was from a guy in a mobility scooter! I know his intentions were good (he wanted to suggest I get a scooter or a wheelchair because it's changed his life) but still, it was a public place & thats a personal conversation I don't really want to be having in the supermarket, with a stranger, meaning I had to be stood longer! Xx

    Tania | When Tania Talks

    1. Thanks, Tan. I don't think some people realise how personal of a question it is, just because they're okay with talking about it doesn't necessarily mean that everyone else is x

    2. Oh that's a great point!!! And way to explain difference of opinion - why people don't always chat away as some expect

    3. Exactly, some people may not feel comfortable and others will chat openly, you never know what stage someone is at with their condition x

  2. Holy shit. I assume you've written this list because they've all happened to you? People can be assholes. Xx

    1. Yep, heard all of these. They certainly can x

    2. And I'm sure some over and over and over sighhhhh

  3. Holy shit. I assume you've written this list because they've all happened to you? People can be assholes. Xx

  4. What a brilliant post! As angry as each of these points make me, I don't doubt they all happen every single day - some people suck. Regardless, I really enjoyed reading! :)

    Lilies and Lipbalm

  5. Really don't understand how people have the audacity to say/do things like that! People are so damn rude. I'm sorry you've had to experience that x

    1. Thanks, Zoe. Some people don't understand it and that's fine but I don't tolerate rudeness well x

  6. What an amazing post! It's so rude how people can't treat somebody the same because of a chair! I've watched these things happen to friends of mine and from that always hope that I say and do the right things to them and others, I'd hate to think I every upset someone with my words.
    It truly saddens me that you and others have to experience this.

    Sarah xo || See The Stars

    1. I'm sure you haven't, Sarah, you're a sweetheart. Don't over-think things, we're the same, just have a different way of getting around, I think some people think we're aliens lol and will gladly tell them everything about our conditions but it's personal and nobody's business x

  7. This and everything about it. I hate using my wheelchair when I'm out sometimes because of the strange looks I get and comments. Love this blog post babe so much x

  8. Oh my goodness.
    I just came across this post and had to laugh- I use a wheelchair also and have heard or experienced all of these!
    I have mild Cerebral Palsy, but also Scoliosis and hip dysplasia, which work together with my CP-induced spasticity to cause all kinds of issues, and other chronic pain in my legs that doctors cannot give me a reason for. This summer I had to face reality and go back to using a chair because walking is so painful most of the time. People really don't understand why I can walk but use a chair.. I was at university today and got out to push it over some snow (Canadian winters + Wheelchairs are ridiculous) and I was getting so mad over people's reactions. I always feel like I have to justify myself, because people can't tell that I am constantly in pain.
    All that is to say thank you for this!

    1. Aww not a problem, thank you for reading it :) x


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