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Top 10 Ways To Treat Someone in a Wheelchair

As silly as this list might seem, I have actually experienced each of these at various times over my 13 years of being a quadriplegic. What about your experiences, let us know at

1. Approach the caregiver (who is standing next to the person seated in a wheelchair) slowly, take her hand between your own and in your most sympathetic voice, asked softly "how is he doing?"

2. When a quadriplegic in a wheelchair approaches the door to a building, watch them intently to make sure they don't injure themselves. Do not initiate an attempt to open the door however, as these people want to remain as independent as possible.

3. When you do speak directly to a quadriplegic, do so slowly and clearly, making sure to enunciate your words in order to be certain they understand you.

4. When accompanying the power wheelchair bound person in public, make sure to walk directly in front of them at a slow pace, in order to make sure they don't get lost. It is extra helpful if you stop every 5 to 10 steps and turnaround to make sure they are still with you.

5. While the person is in a wheelchair, feel free to press all of the different buttons on the display unit in order to see what they do. Once you find a sequence that particularly interests you, push those buttons again and again while exclaiming, "That's really cool!"

6. Make sure to continue assisting the individual in the wheelchair after they have thanked you for doing so, because you just know they want your ongoing help but are afraid to ask for what they really need.

7. Be generous with congratulations to people in wheelchairs for remarkable accomplishments such as successfully driving their wheelchair across a parking lot, being able to control their wheelchair in 90° turns, making it up a ramp without driving off the edge of it etc.

8. Pat the head/face of the stranger in a wheelchair after engaging them in conversation. They really like that.

9. Walk up to a stranger in a wheelchair, ask them what happened, then regale them with stories about when you were on crutches or about your aunt/grandmother/other older relative who is also in a wheelchair.

10. When feeding someone in a wheelchair, feel free to add humor to the experience by making airplane noises and moving the spoon around in the air. They think that is funny too.

Slice of Life series articles are those that share the special experiences of those living in a wheelchair in a way that is witty, informational, poignant and even inspirational. Do you have a story? Share it with us at

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