Last week it was revealed that Nottinghamshire police has labelled misogyny a hate crime. And yet nothing anyone has ever said to me in my capacity as “woman” has ever come close to what comes my way in my capacity as “wheelchair user”.
Whether amusing or downright offensive, people seem to say most of these inappropriate things with the best of intentions, which suggests that they just need a point in the right direction. So without further ado, here’s the top nine things never to do or say to a wheelchair user.
- “Don’t run me over”
This one inevitably comes from a slightly ageing man (sorry but it’s true) and is accompanied by a theatrical step out of the way or, worse, a dramatic flattening against the wall. The logic here is faulty: by saying such a skin-crawlingly annoying thing, you only tempt us to run you over. Imagine if people repeatedly told you not to walk into them just because, say, you had brown hair. Let me assure you that using a wheelchair has not, unfortunately in this case, increased my capacity to do you unwitting harm.
- “Do you have a licence to drive that thing?”
Similar to the above, only the person assumes they’re being more original. They’re not. It not only betrays a fundamental misunderstanding of social services – if you think they hand out thousands of pounds worth of kit without checking you can use it, I frankly envy your innocence – but also a misunderstanding of the capabilities of a wheelchair. Mine has a top speed of 4mph, the speed of the average fast walk. Do you have a licence to use your legs? Read more