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Addressing people in wheelchairs

(41 Posts)
Beswitched Sat 20-Mar-21 21:10:31

My mother has been gradually becoming less mobile due to a problem in her spine
She still has all her faculties, dresses smartly, puts on make up going out etc.
We got a small collapsible wheelchair recently just to make things easier for her. I used it for the first time today to take her to a hospital appointment and was really shocked at how staff at the hospital addressed me instead of her all the time.
If people working in a medical setting do this what hope is there of other people realising that just because someone's lost the use of their legs it doesn't mean they've lost all ability to speak for themselves.?

Grannybags Sat 20-Mar-21 21:24:15

Terrible isn't it? My Mum used to call it the "does she take sugar?" syndrome when it kept happening to us!

Bridgeit Sat 20-Mar-21 21:26:16

Yes it does seem to be a problem... I think the best thing to do is to just say, oh it’s ok you can ask (Name of person] she / he is perfectly capable of speaking for themselves. Best wishes

Beswitched Sat 20-Mar-21 21:31:06

Yes, I refuse to insult my mother by answering for her. Today, when people said 'does she....' I just stayed silent and looked down at mum and they began to address her.

Urmstongran Sat 20-Mar-21 21:37:31

Oh your poor mum Beswitched (love your name by the way!) sitting there. And there she was, dressed nicely and made up to. Well done to you for letting a pause develop, thereby giving your mum the opportunity to speak for herself. A thoughtful way indeed of dealing with the situation.

nexus63 Sat 20-Mar-21 21:40:58

i worked as a PA for a lady, nothing wrong with her brain, just her legs, she used an electric chair if we went out in our local area but a manual if we got on a bus, the drivers would talk to me and i just said...she is the one with the bus pass, in shops they always asked me what she wanted, i would laugh it off by saying i am not a mind reader or the supermarket...sorry i am not paying for that, some people would speak to her as if she was deaf, we would look at each other and i would say A you did not tell me you went deaf over the weekend....although i worked for her we got to me really good friends and still keep in touch.....we both have the same silly sense of humour, she never got angry about it, humour always worked best, hospitals can be the worse,i told them i am just the manual labourer A is the patien.

grannyrebel7 Sat 20-Mar-21 21:54:47

I broke my leg 10 yrs ago and was in a wheelchair for a few weeks. In a cafe my DH was literally asked "Does she take sugar". I couldn't believe it. I now make a point of smiling and speaking to people in wheelchairs.

suziewoozie Sat 20-Mar-21 22:16:53

When I’m out in my wheelchair with DH and we go into anywhere ( not so much atm obviously) I always speak first , never wait to be spoken to, start the conversation and thus take the initiative - I don’t wait to be addressed first. Maybe you could get your mother to do this? Once the conversation is started, then that’s it, obviously then who is to be spoken to. Quite frankly, it’s the practical aspects of being out in a wheelchair that are the real problem so often.

Sallywally1 Sat 20-Mar-21 22:49:37

I have a little insight into this. Some years ago I broke my ankle and could not use either a frame nor crutches, so I purchased a small basic wheelchair. My OH and I were amazed at the people who spoke to him, rather than me, even when I was paying at, say, supermarket checkouts.

I also found overwhelmingly that women in supermarkets etc were lovely to me, but men looked right through me!

Blossoming Sat 20-Mar-21 23:00:56

I wanted to get a couple of fly swatters to fix to the wheels of my chariot. I couldn’t believe how many people just walked into it!

Grandma11 Sat 20-Mar-21 23:35:04

It gets no better if you are in a powered Wheelchair or a small Boot Scooter, whilst some people mean well and just want to genuinely help, some believe that you have left you Brains at home and are totally incapable of driving your chariot, should only drive it in the Gutter, or should sit patiently waiting to pass by them whilst they gossip to their friend and totally block the pavement by not leaving you any space to get by them!
I have also had people rush round a blind corner before unaware of what exactly could be approaching from the opposite direction, and fall over me because they could not stop intime and lost their balance. Then the abuse and foul language really shows they have no manners, and they think that it was entirely your fault for simply being there!

Ro60 Sun 21-Mar-21 02:48:26

I find the trick is to break eye contact with the person & then the they lower their eyes to your companion.
It is astonishing in these times of equality & political correctness certain groups are still overlooked; particularly in the health service.

nanna8 Sun 21-Mar-21 06:00:39

It is astonishing and really disgusting. I don’t think it is quite that bad here because I think most medical staff have training about not being judgemental and talking down to people. The trouble seems to be that many just accept this sort of treatment but it is definitely worth calling it out if only for others.

suziewoozie Sun 21-Mar-21 09:03:14

There’s some interesting sweeping generalisations going on here and, given the topic, it’s ironic they have ignored the contribution of the one wheelchair user ???

geekesse Sun 21-Mar-21 09:25:33

If I ever find myself using a wheelchair, I plan to take inspiration from my granny. She was stopped by police for being drunk in charge of her electric wheelchair after they observed her zigzagging down the middle of the high street singing lustily after a boozy lunch with her girlfriends.

sodapop Sun 21-Mar-21 09:34:06

It is strange how things have not moved on at all in some areas. I worked in Social Care 20 years ago and we were trying to address problems like this then. Here we are still in the same place. There are pockets of excellence regarding access and adaptations but few and far between. People with a learning disability are treated in much the same way, an assumption made that they cannot offer or even have an opinion of their own. I have to say here as well that medical personnel were just as guilty of this as others, used to make my blood boil.

Alexa Sun 21-Mar-21 09:34:09

Suziewoozie, by "the practical aspect" do you refer to how the person sitting in the chair is physically lower down and has to keep looking up at people who are standing? Very short people then have the same problem with their height.

Conversely a significantly tall woman , even if elderly , has more social power than a short woman. This bias is obvious among fashion models who are almost all tall.
One way for both men and women to add gravitas and authority to a wheelchair position would be to cultivate a deep toned and fairly loud voice.

Alexa Sun 21-Mar-21 09:39:10

Sodapop, when I arrived to work as a dog 'therapist' at a social club for multiply disabled people I was greeted by a young woman with Down's syndrome. She was so confident and efficient that any prejudice I had was immediately dispelled.

BlueSky Sun 21-Mar-21 09:50:18

Suzie I once was PA to a lady who used a wheelchair while out and like you, she would always speak first, getting quite annoyed if anybody ignored her and tried to aske me!

suziewoozie Sun 21-Mar-21 09:53:07

By practical aspect, I mean non automatic opening doors, lack of lifts , steps ( even small ones) lack of parking and lack of dropped kerbs - that sort of thing. Obviously more modern buildings are much better including part of reception being at a lower level. As I said, when we enter somewhere, I immediately speak up even if it’s just an hello and then the conversation starts between us. If we were there only for DH then I’d expect the conversation to be between him and the relevant person.

Grandma70s Sun 21-Mar-21 09:54:03

I can’t walk very far, so have used a wheelchair sometimes. I haven’t had any feeling of being ignored. People do speak to me normally, I think.

What I dislike about it is being so low down. I am tall, and not used to looking up to people all the time. I suppose a short person would notice this less. It has made me feel there must be a big psychological difference between tall and short people.

suziewoozie Sun 21-Mar-21 10:00:30

Grandma interesting point - I’m only 5’ 2”. As for your experience reflecting mine, I think non-wheelchair users have to avoid falling into the trap of not accepting we have some responsibility for how we are treated by speaking up for ourselves ( literally). If I went anywhere where I felt I was ignored because of the wheelchair, I’d deal with it either at the time or afterwards.

Redhead56 Sun 21-Mar-21 10:01:53

Both my mum and MIL ended up in wheelchairs neither of them would allow people to talk for them or over them. They were both very strong minded women.

Hetty58 Sun 21-Mar-21 10:03:26

My daughter noticed it when she broke her leg. Suddenly, people treated her quite differently - and spoke to me instead.

trisher Sun 21-Mar-21 10:47:04

I used to push my mother forward in her wheelchair and then step back a bit. If they wanted to talk to someone they had to speak to her or shout across at me. And my mother was very capable of telling them off if she felt ignored.