Wheelchair etiquette

  1. When addressing a person who uses a wheelchair, do not lean on the wheelchair unless you have permission to do so. A wheelchair is part of an individual's personal space.

  1. Do not assume a person using a wheelchair needs assistance. Always ask before providing assistance. If your offer of assistance is accepted, ask for instructions and follow the instructions given.

  1. When talking to a person who uses a wheelchair, look at and speak directly to that person, rather than through a companion.

  2. Relax and speak naturally. Do not be embarrassed if you happen to use accepted common expressions such as "got to be running along" that seem to relate to the person's disability.

  3. When talking with a person in a wheelchair for more than a few minutes, sit in a chair, whenever possible. This can facilitate conversation.

  4. When giving directions to a person in a wheelchair, consider distance, weather conditions and physical obstacles such as stairs, curbs and steep hills.

  5. Use proper terminology when referring to a person who uses a wheelchair. Terms such as "wheelchair-bound" or "confined to a wheelchair" are inappropriate. Using a wheelchair does not mean confinement.

  6. Do not assume that all people who use wheelchairs have the same limitations. People use wheelchairs for a variety of reasons and have different limitations and abilities.

  7. If a person who uses a wheelchair has a service animal, do not pet or try to play with it. A service animal is working and should not be interrupted.

  8. When greeting a person who uses a wheelchair, it is appropriate to offer to shake hands with that person even if he or she has upper extremity limitations.