People who use wheelchairs – Did you know?
We have a new Ability Sheet for the month of February and it is on People who use wheelchairs. Feel free to print the PDF (Portable Document Format) version and post it somewhere that your staff can read, and have an electronic copy available upon request.
People who use wheelchairs
- There are many reasons a person could be using a wheelchair; pulmonary or cardiac issues, balance issues, pain and discomfort, motor coordination issues, spinal cord injury, cerebral palsy, spina bifida, muscular dystrophy, amputation, brain injury, stroke, complications of diabetes, frequent seizures, stroke, fibromyalgia, arthritis or scoliosis pain, temporary from injury or surgery, frailty that sometimes accompany old age, and many others.
- Wheelchairs give individuals the freedom of movement as long as we remove barriers by providing ramps at building entrances, automated doors and accessible washrooms as a start.
- There are many different kinds of manual and electric wheelchairs. Some individuals may use a motorized cart or scooter in addition to a wheelchair.
- People who use wheelchairs have varying capabilities. Some people who use wheelchairs can walk with aid or for short distances. The wheelchair gives them the ability to conserve energy and to move about with greater efficiency.
- Do not think of people who use wheelchairs as invalids or sick. Many wheelchairs users view their wheelchair as a means to freedom because without it they are very limited in where they can or cannot go. They are neither contagious nor mentally impaired, and do not like nor want your sympathy.
- Do not use words like: “confined” to a wheelchair, courageous, unfortunate, handicapped, incapacitated, crippled, wheelchair-bound victim, invalid, disabled, handi-capable, differently abled. They are a person who uses a wheelchair much like a person who uses glasses.
What helps me in the workplace?
- Keep pathways and corridors clear as I requiring turning and circulation for my wheelchair.
- If unsure, ask and follow instructions I give you; people with disabilities have their own way of doing things that they feel familiar or comfortable with, so even though it may look strange, they know the best way for them go about doing something.
- After a meeting, push in your chairs so that I am able to exit the room too.
- Office supplies and frequently used materials being placed on most accessible shelves is helpful as I can’t reach upper and lower shelves and drawers.
- Accessible photocopiers and faxes, so that I can access them from a seated position.
- Provide assistive devices: voice activated speaker phone, large button phone, automatic dialing system, voice mail system, and/or headset, alternative access for computers such as speech recognition, trackballs, key guards, alternative keyboards, and/or mouth sticks depending on the person’s limitations and preferences.
- If the conversation lasts, more than a few minutes, it is helpful if you sit down – it will keep both of us from getting a stiff neck!
- When in conversation with a group of people, do not stand in front of the person in the wheelchair – it blocks me out of the conversation.
One thing I want people to know:
“As a wheelchair user I experience discrimination every day, when I’m not able to access public spaces like shops and offices, use transportation, eat at restaurants or use services like hair salons. But in most cases, a few small modifications are all that is necessary for people like me to gain access and participate fully in society. When people make these small changes, the result is a big difference in my quality of life.” John