Providing Learning Support for Students with Mobility Impairments Undertaking Fieldwork and Related Activities
A wheelchair is part of the user's personal space. Some do's and don'ts (after
the British Red Cross, undated) are:
- Hang or lean on the chair - it's similar to hanging or leaning on the person
- Pat the person on the head. A pat on a child's head is a gesture of affection. Some people are inclined to do the same to a wheelchair user because a person in a wheelchair is at about the same height as a child. This is demeaning and patronising.
- Lift a wheelchair except in case of emergency, or unless trained to do so.
- Assume that a wheelchair user can't understand what you are saying
- Be embarrassed or apologetic - the person in the wheelchair has every right to be there, and is not embarrassed
- Talk to a wheelchair user normally, face to face if possible, in an appropriate manner, and not to their helper!
- Ask the user for an opinion, even if they have a communication impairment as well as a mobility one, and listen to their views
- When talking to a student in a wheelchair for more than a few moments, sit down, kneel or squat if convenient. This is not only courteous, but helps protect the wheelchair user from neck strain due to looking upwards constantly
- Remember when helping a user to cross roads that the wheelchair is in front of you. Don't wait too near the edge of the road. Allow time to cross, and be aware of problems like potholes, cobble or dog faeces.
- Make sure doors, aisles in shops, lift entrances and so on are wide enough for the wheelchair
- Remember that the person in the wheelchair is a person, and not a package to be pushed around. You don't need be over-protective.
Habitual wheelchair users will be aware of how the wheelchair should be used, and are the best source of advice for helpers. If students have to use a wheelchair exceptionally, guidance is available from, for example, the British Red Cross.
© Geography Discipline Network/authors, 2001
ISBN: 1 86174 114 6