Many times, us wheelchair drivers accidentally crash into a stranger on the street. There may be times when we cut you off on the sidewalk without realizing it (or maybe we do realize it). And believe it or not, when those things happen, it’s our fault!
Too often, when we run somebody over, we are told “sorry” by the victim. Instead, we should be the one apologizing. The fact is, we don’t always bother to look where we’re going, and just because we use a wheelchair doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be held accountable for our actions. By apologizing when we’re the ones at fault, somebody is unknowingly portraying the idea that we have no control over our actions.
Treat us the same
The point is, strangers should treat individuals in wheelchairs the same way they would treat everybody else. For instance, we don’t expect you to hold the door open for any other reason than common courtesy. I mean, if you have a stroller, a family of seven, or if you’ll unintentionally block the doorway yourself while holding it open, then by all means head on through! We’ll take care of it ourselves. If you do want to help by holding the door open for us, stand on the outside of the door. That will clear the way for us to pass through and won’t lead to a traffic jam as you block our path.
Wheel down the sidewalk
You also don’t need leave us a 10-foot-wide radius as we wheel down the sidewalk. All we need is enough space for our chair to get by. And you don’t need to rudely announce in the middle of a crowd that there’s a “wheelchair coming through!” We’re not wheelchairs, we’re people. We go to baseball games all the time, we’ve done this before…
We’ve even had cars stop for us at green lights while we are patiently waiting to cross the road. This creates a dangerous situation. Do we go so you get the satisfaction of being a nice person? But what if other cars are coming that don’t plan on stopping at a green light? In the end, the nicest thing to do would be to follow the traffic signals. We plan on doing that. It’s why they’re there.
In the end, we don’t expect you to go out of your way to make our lives easier. If we’re out and about in public, it’s because we can fend for ourselves. And if we do need help, we’re big boys and we’ll ask for it.
Which brings us back to our original point. Don’t go out of your way to have sympathy for us. If we screw up and run into you, let us apologize for it. Let us live our lives and learn from our mistakes so that we will improve upon them the next time. Don’t get us wrong, we appreciate your good intentions, we just don’t need help all the time.
So next time we run into you on the sidewalk, assess the situation. If it’s your fault, apologize. If not, let us do the same and we’ll both go about our days as if nothing happened…
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