Talking to people in wheelchairs

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This topic contains 8 replies, has 8 voices, and was last updated by  Richard 4 years, 4 months ago.

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  • #10874

    Richard
    Member

    I recently met a man who was in a wheelchair. We introduced ourselves and talked for several minutes. During the time he was seated in the wheelchair, I stood in front of him, talking back and forth. He was looking up at me and I was looking down at him. After I left I began to wonder if I had been impolite or disrespectful to him by talking to him from a higher position. Would it have been better if I crouched alongside him so that our faces were of about equal height? Or would this be putting undue focus on his disability? Does it make any difference if it’s someone you meet for the first time or have known for a while and are comfortable with?

    User Detail :  

    Name : Richard, Gender : M, Sexual Orientation : Straight, Race : white/American Indian, Religion : Native American, Age : 54, City : Los Angeles, State : CA Country : United States, Education level : Over 4 Years of College, Social class : Upper class, 
    #37081

    Ron-S
    Participant

    Richard, here’s the deal: you were talking to a grown man who just happens to be in a wheelchair. I’m sure the man you were talking to realizes his life situation and has accepted the fact that just about everybody he talks to is going to be taller than he is. Does an NBA player crouch down when he speaks to somebody shorter than he is? No. Do you stand on a foot stool if you are talking to an NBA player? No. The only reasons I can think of to crouch and speak to another person is if that person is a child or if that person is some sort of a king who will have you beheaded if you don’t crouch down.

    User Detail :  

    Name : Ron-S, Gender : M, Sexual Orientation : Straight, Race : White/Caucasian, Religion : Agnostic, Age : 60, City : Stockton, State : CA Country : United States, Education level : High School Diploma, Social class : Lower middle class, 
    #29399

    Those who must be in a wheel chair because of a disability that they may have for the most part do not want others to treat them as if they are different. The only difference is that you can walk places and he/she must sit in a chair to get places. There is no need to bend down and talk to anyone in a chair. As said before, nobody who is taller than others crouches down to talk on a normal basis. They will not think bad of you or think you are being rude. If the situation is necessary that you get to their level, as if you are talking about personal info. and things like that, then I would say yes, bend down or just grab a chair. On a normal and daily basis, there is no special accomodations or extra attention a person in a wheelchair would like to recieve. B.T.W., I am going through college to work with people who have special needs such as being in a wheelchair, which is where I am getting my information from.

    User Detail :  

    Name : Saluki Girl, Gender : F, Sexual Orientation : na, Disability : na, Race : NA, Religion : na, Age : na, City : Carbondale, State : IL Country : United States, Occupation : na, Education level : 2 Years of College, Social class : na, 
    #25401

    Dwanny
    Participant

    I always say when in doubt, ask. I would’ve asked him if he’d been more comfortable with you sitting. My neck hurts when I’ve been looking up at someone while we converse. The same with opening the door for a handicapped person-ask. If they’re offended that’s their problem.

    User Detail :  

    Name : Dwanny, Gender : F, Race : White/Caucasian, Religion : Pagan, Age : 53, City : Springtown, State : TX Country : United States, 
    #27996

    Kathy
    Participant

    During the months I spent in a wheelchair, I would have appreciated someone crouching down when we spoke at length, simply because my neck would get sore if I had to look up for long.

    User Detail :  

    Name : Kathy, Gender : F, City : Calgary, State : NA Country : Canada, 
    #30621

    Susan MD
    Member

    As a woman who was fit and healthy until age 32 when I developed health problems that decreased my ability to walk, I have a lot to say about wheelchair manners. There is no need to crouch as if you were stooping to speak to a child. Just because someone is in a wheelchair does not mean they are stupid (I have a 160 IQ). Do not cut off a person in a wheelchair or a scooter from their group. People often cut in front of me when I am with my small children. It is OK to offer help (and often appreciated), but respect “NO” if you hear it. It is OK to politely ask why I am in my situation. Also note Scooters do not have brakes – I can go, but can not stop immediately. I will run over you if you cut in front of me!

    User Detail :  

    Name : Susan MD, Gender : F, Sexual Orientation : Straight, Disability : Lupus, Race : White/Caucasian, Religion : Catholic, Age : 37, City : Chicago, State : IL Country : United States, Occupation : Physician, Education level : Over 4 Years of College, Social class : Middle class, 
    #19459

    Nope. Not disrespectful at all. People talk from varying heights in all situations. If you’re looking for a guideline on when and if you should move to a lower physical position to communicate, that depends on the nature of the conversation, the duration etc. You already hit on the answer in your question. Comfort. For everyone involved. If you’re going to talk for a while, about serious things, maybe try to find somewhere to sit where you’re comfortable too. Then you’re both on even ground – because part of people crouching is that it looks uncomfortable to me and it looks temporary – mainly because of that appearance of discomfort. If it’s a quick ‘hey what’s up’ and related pleasantries or other short chat, then really no need.

    User Detail :  

    Name : Kimberley B., Gender : F, Sexual Orientation : Straight, Disability : Double Above Knee Amputee, Race : White/Caucasian, Religion : Toltec, Age : 40, City : Whitefish, State : MT Country : United States, Occupation : Magazine Editor, Education level : Less than High School Diploma, Social class : Middle class, 
    #20521

    HiediR
    Member

    I use a wheelchair and for shorter conversations….no I don’t mind that someone is looking down at me. However, because I have severe osteoarthritis in my neck from my accident……LONG conversations; the able-bodied person either gets down to my level or misses out on eye-contact. I’m not trying to be rude or being inattentive as to what they’re saying……but if I look up for more than say 5 minutes this really does get quite uncomfortable for me. I do, however, recognize that eye-contact is important and so if it’s going to be a longer conversation, I simply explain that because I dislocated my neck and it hurts to look up, I cannot continue looking up. I ask if they’d mind sitting — or just understand that I’m going to stare at their sternum for the rest of the conversation.

    User Detail :  

    Name : HiediR, City : San Diego, State : CA Country : United States, 
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