5 Things to Keep in Mind When Befriending Someone in a Wheelchair

1. Be patient. Having a disability does not mean I am incapable of accomplishing something. It just means I might have to accomplish it from a different angle. This can require trial and error. For example, putting on a shirt or jacket or participating in a class or activity. It may take time for me to learn something, but it’s important to know that we do understand. We just learn at different speeds and levels.

2. Be mindful of comments like, “Wow, you remember that — your memory is so much better than mine.”As if someone who happens to sit instead of stand on their own two feet is incapable of comprehending or remembering anything. Physical challenges have nothing to do with a person’s intelligence. Anyone can communicate with someone. It comes down whether you are truly making a conscious effort to listen to what the person is saying.

3. An appropriate tone is important. Please talk to me, not at me or down to me. Talk to me like you just did with the person before me. Don’t take on a child-like tone with me. Fellow peers and even adults have done this to me. While I understand you may think it’s the right way to approach someone with a disability, not only is it extremely unnecessary, but it comes across as demeaning.

4. The Wheelchair Stare. If you have a question, please ask. Don’t stand there and stare at me as if you’re waiting for me to do some kind of trick. I appreciate genuine curiosity, and I am more than willing to answer questions.

5. The Golden Rule. Treat everyone as you would want to be treated. Equal respect should be shown and practiced every day.

This piece was previously published on Thought Catalog.

Getty image by Sissoupitch.

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