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01 Sep 2008 | Australasian Dental Practice

news > Spectrum > Page 54

10 top tips for wheelchair etiquette

ParaQuad NSW (the Paraplegic and Quadriplegic Association of NSW) was founded over 46 years ago to empower people with spinal cord injury to reach their potential and be independent. ParaQuad provides accommodation; personal care; nursing, occupational therapy and social work consultancy; education and training; information; advocacy and a scholarship program for people who have had a spinal cord injury.


Recently, they released their 10 top tips for wheelchair etiquette:

  1. Speak directly to the person, not to someone else nearby.
  2. If a conversation lasts for more than a few minutes consider sitting down.
  3. When greeting a person, it is appropriate to shake hands; a touch, a nod or a similar gesture is fine.
  4. Focus on the person first, not the disability.
  5. Don't shout, speak patronisingly or force enthusiasm. Forget the 'speed limit' jokes.
  6. Always ask the person if they would like your assistance, don't assume.
  7. Accept "no" for an answer and don't hover. People using wheelchairs have their own unique way of doing things.
  8. If unsure how to help, ask the person and follow instructions given.
  9. A wheelchair is a part of a person's body space; don't push it, lean on it or tap it - respect the wheelchair as you would another person's limbs.
  10. People using wheelchairs require turning space. Keep pathways and corridors clear.

In addition, they have issued guidelines for terminology:

  • Person with a disability NOT disabled person, handicapped, crippled or victim;
  • Person who uses a wheelchair NOT wheelchair bound or confined to a wheelchair;
  • Person who had an injury NOT injured person, suffering or stricken with a disability;
  • Person born with a disability NOT with a birth defect;
  • Accessible toilet NOT disabled toilet; and
  • Accessible parking NOT disabled parking.

The most recent report from Dr Raymond Cripps of the Australian Institute of Health & Welfare (AIHW) shows that transport-related accidents accounted for 46 per cent and falls accounted for 33% of all new cases of spinal cord injury in 2005- 2006. Men account for 82 per cent of all new spinal cord injuries, which occur most frequently in those aged 15-24.

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