Wheelchair users often hear some really clumsy and sometimes rude things come out of able bodied people’s mouths. Most of them certainly mean well, but there are some things better left unsaid, no matter the intention behind the words. Whether you’re a family member, friend, or stranger, do not say these things to someone who uses a wheelchair:
“I had to use a wheelchair when I broke my leg, so I know what it’s like.”
There’s a difference between having a cast for a few months and actual paralysis. A HUGE difference. It’s nice that you’re trying to relate, but the comparison is ignorant at best. Don’t be a dunce, and withhold your story about that one time you were in a wheelchair.
“You inspire me.”
Sure, paralysis, whether partial or complete, is very tough to deal with. But life moves on. When wheelchair users go out, they want to feel normal like everyone else. Bombarding them with doe-eyed praise about how “heroic” and “inspiring” they are has the exact opposite effect. Don’t do that.
“I was only parked there for a minute.”
It’s incredible how many able bodied people will come up with this excuse when confronted for parking in a handicapped spot. Just be grateful for your working legs and walk those extra yards.
“Everything happens for a reason.”
When these words come from someone in a more fortunate/privileged position, they fall rather flat. It’s great that you’re trying to be supportive, but please drop the patronizing platitudes.
“Let me help you!”
Without a doubt, the person rushing to help is simply trying to be nice! However, wheelchair users value independence and self-sufficiency like everyone else. Unless they ask for help, leave them be. Chances are they’ve got it handled.
This article has been brought to you by the experienced spinal cord injury lawyers at Wilshire Law Firm.