What I Want People Who Touch My Wheelchair Without Permission to Know

For over a year now, my condition has meant that I’ve started to use a wheelchair more frequently, and this has definitely taught me a lot about the people around me and strangers in the street. Sometimes it’s difficult to self-propel myself in my chair, and I’ll ask family members to help me. This is totally OK. However, what isn’t OK is people just randomly starting to push me. This goes for family members and strangers.

Shona in her wheelchair.

Just because you know me well, that doesn’t give you the right to start pushing me without my permission. When I use my wheelchair, it becomes part of me, and if you start touching it or moving it without asking, it makes me feel extremely uncomfortable and anxious.

What makes me even more angry, though, is strangers in shops, mainly in lines, pushing me forward a little or standing really close. I can only go so fast when I’m using my chair, and I’m quite often moving as fast as I can so I don’t hold others up, so please stop trying to give me little pushes to speed me up.

There are also the people who feel it’s OK to lean on my wheelchair. Let me tell you that is most definitely not OK. As I’ve already pointed out, my chair is part of me and replaces my legs when I use it. You wouldn’t come up to me and start touching my legs, would you?

The public can be so uneducated when it comes to how to respond to someone in a wheelchair, so I’m almost willing to accept that it might not entirely be someone’s fault.

To put it simply, unless I give you permission, please don’t touch my chair or attempt to push me in any way shape or form. You probably wouldn’t like it if I start wheeling into you, so please don’t do it to me.

The Mighty is asking the following: What’s one thing people might not know about your experience with disability, disease or mental illness, and what would you say to teach them? If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to [email protected] Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

Find this story helpful? Share it with someone you care about.

Related to Other

When Kids In My Son’s Class Were More Accepting of His ‘Differences’ Than the Parents

Recently there was a school event in my son’s general education classroom. I wasn’t planning to go, because I’d have to rush there from a doctor’s appointment. And, to be honest, it’s sometimes hard to go because the difference between my son and his peers is a reminder of Evan’s daily challenges. My plans changed [...]

To Those Who Think Young Unemployed People on Their Parents' Health Benefits Are 'Lazy'

A few weeks ago I received a call from a compassionate young woman who wanted to feature my story in a piece for The Guardian U.S. The feature would focus on young men and woman who, due to illness, were reliant on their parents’ health insurance until the age of 26. As a young individual diagnosed with [...]

The 2-Word Response I’d Like People With Chronic Illness to Give to ‘How Are You?’

It happens every time you meet someone and interact on any level in society. It does not matter if you are at a bank, doctor’s appointment, checking out at a grocery store or getting your hair done… invariably one question will be asked by friends and strangers alike, and only one answer that is acceptable per the Social Contract we all [...]

What Being ‘Rare’ Means to Me

“There is nothing more rare, nor more beautiful, than a woman being unapologetically herself; comfortable in her perfect imperfection. To me, that is the true essence of beauty.”  — Dr. Steve Maraboli What goes around comes around. I truly believe if you put good out into the world, it will come back to you in [...]