Wheelchair Etiquette

This information provides simple guidelines for wheelchair etiquette and how to effectively and respectively interact with individuals who use mobility chairs. 

Many people simply are not aware of how to act when communicating with a friend or loved one who uses a wheelchair. Therefore, these pointers may be helpful to you.

  • Always ask the person using the wheelchair if he or she would like assistance BEFORE you help. It may not be needed or wanted.
  • Don't hang or lean on a person's wheelchair because it is part of that person's personal body space.
  • If conversation lasts more than a few minutes, use wheelchair etiquette and consider sitting down or kneeling to get yourself on the same level.
  • Don't patronize the person by patting them on the head.
  • Give clear directions, including distance, weather conditions and physical obstacles that may hinder the person's travel.
  • Don't classify persons who use wheelchairs as sick. Wheelchairs are used for a variety of non-contagious disabilities.
  • Speak directly to the person in the wheelchair, not to someone nearby as if the person in the wheelchair did not exist.
  • When a person using a wheelchair "transfers" out of the wheelchair to a chair, toilet, car or bed , do not move the wheelchair out of reaching distance.
  • Be aware of the person's capabilities. Some users can walk with aid and use wheelchairs to save energy and move quickly.
  • It is ok to use terms like "running along" when speaking to a person who uses a wheelchair. The person is likely to express things the same way.
  • Don't discourage children from asking questions about the wheelchair.
  • Don't assume that using a wheelchair is in itself a tragedy. It is a means of freedom that allows the person to move about independently.

This article on wheel chair etiquette was written by Robin Kettle, an access auditor and disability awareness trainer currently assisting businesses across the UK. She can be contacted at Blue Badge Disability Equality and Awareness Training.


Related Information

ADA Requirements
Mobility Resources
Mobility Van Sales
Disability Etiquette Guidelines


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Published by Jules Sowder

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