Wheel chair ramps offer an element of home safety for any family members who must use a wheelchair as their main source of mobility. It helps to level the playing field for them, so to speak. When we walk around we assume the whole world is accessible to us. We don’t realize until we are confined to a wheelchair that the world isn’t quite as accessible as we once thought. A wheelchair ramp not only gives a physical safety and accessibility factor to the elderly person, it also raises their self-esteem.
How should we interact with a person in a wheelchair?
People who are walking don’t want to offend someone in a wheelchair, but sometimes it can be difficult to know what would be offensive and what wouldn’t. The boundary between helpful and offensive is sometimes very thin. Just remember, the person in the wheelchair is no different from you.
Try not to have any presumptions about the person’s physical abilities. You may even know the person well, but don’t assume they want everything done for them. When its nice weather, your dad may want to wheel his own wheelchair for the exercise it gives his arms and back. Your mom might like steering herself because she is careful going around corners.
Speak directly to the person in the wheelchair, not to the wheelchair and certainly not as if they weren’t there. Sometimes appliances make people nervous and they act differently, even condescending although not on purpose. Just go back to remembering they are no different from you, and it will help you know how they should be treated.
Offer to help or ask what you can do to help. It’s always better to ask than to just start helping. It may shock or surprise them or catch them off guard. Perhaps it could even make them feel like they can’t do anything without someone jumping in and doing it for them. Once you get to know the person in the wheelchair a little better, you will better know what kind of help they want and in what circumstances.
It’s okay if they say no thanks. Don’t let your feelings be hurt. It was nice of you to offer, but they feel it’s something they can do for themselves and it helps them to hang onto some independence. So take no thanks very graciously when you hear it. It will be easier for you to offer help the next time.