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'Helping' a wheelchair user

(69 Posts)
longtompot Tue 05-Mar-19 21:35:35

I had a very upset dd on the phone earlier today. She is away at uni, and was seeing her gf off at the train station before heading back to her halls. She was halfway up a steep hill, which is a challenge but she has managed fine before, stopped for a drink and was just starting to wheel back up there again when suddenly someone behind her grabbed the handles on her wheelchair and started to push her. She shouted at him to not touch her so he started shouting back at her and swore at her before walking off up the hill. She was really shaken up, and annoyed with herself that she didn't taken her handles off (she keeps them in a pocket just in case).
I guess my AIBU is, is it unreasonable for people to ask a wheelchair user if they would like some help? You wouldn't just grab some shopping bags off someone walking along because they look like they are struggling. You would ask if that person needed help.
She was also a bit shaken up because, despite shouting at him to not touch her, people walking past looked but no one came to her help.
I hate her being away and so vulnerable sad

HennyPennyHorror Tue 05-Mar-19 21:38:01

Some people are dickheads. Tell her to forget him...he may have learned a lesson.

Don't hate her being away...it's better than her being reliant on you and not living a full life.

TrickyKid Tue 05-Mar-19 21:42:45

He should've asked but some people just don't know it's not the right thing to do. The only time I've asked is when j could see a man was clearly struggling to get off the road onto the pavement and his chair kept bouncing back. Unfortunately he couldn't speak clearly enough for me to understand his response but appeard to be thankful that I helped. I think just randomly helping someone that doesn't appear to need help is wrong but I'm sure he meant well.

Hedgehogblues Tue 05-Mar-19 21:45:18

It's fine to ask but they should respect it if the wheelchair user says no. It's not ok to just start pushing.

ColeHawlins Tue 05-Mar-19 21:52:45

It's not just a faux pas. You can't just tell her to "forget it"(as someone suggested). It's akin to someone just picking you up in the street and starting to march off with you. She must be very shaken. A stranger grabbing your chair is a nightmare.

I always carry hairspray. Or chilli oil spray. Or both. Buy her one of each and make sure she's prepared to use them. It's horrible when they're so far away and something happens. thanks

(I can't make it around Waitrose self propelling , so am impressed with steep hills.)

Topseyt Tue 05-Mar-19 21:55:10

Not OK at all for him to just start pushing. He ought to have asked her whether or not she needed or wanted any help and accepted her response.

He must have made your DD feel rather vulnerable. I suppose she couldn't be sure where he was going to take her. Scary, even if he was trying to be helpful.

He was inconsiderate.

Bacardi101 Tue 05-Mar-19 21:58:41

I’m a wheelchair user and I hate it when this happens which ridiculously is more often than people think. It does make me feel very vulnerable as I can do nothing to stop them and I always panic. Sorry your DD went through this today unfortunately there are some arseholes in this world even if he did think he was trying to help!

ShihTzup Tue 05-Mar-19 22:00:21

It’s totally utterly not ok to push a wheelchair without the permission of the person sitting in it.

Apart from all the reasons above, you also risk mangling the wheelchair user's fingers if they happen to be reaching down to self propel at the same time. Or tipping them over etc if you interfere with their balance or a shift in position.

I’ve had it happen to me and I was fucking livid. Still cross about it, and it was years ago now.

Kittykat93 Tue 05-Mar-19 22:01:05

God I can't imagine ever thinking it's ok to grab somebody's wheelchair and push them without permission, especially a complete stranger! How disrespectful.

Henrysmycat Tue 05-Mar-19 22:01:49

I’ve learnt not to do that. It removes people's independence and makes them feel vulnerable.
Best is to ask, if the answer is “yes, I’d like some help” then you ask what you can do and take their lead.
I’m sorry OP about what happened to your DD.

kalinkafoxtrot45 Tue 05-Mar-19 22:05:33

I live across the street from a residence where a number of wheelchair users live. Sometimes people need a bit of help, especially when it’s icy - but heaven’s sake, you always ASK! Your DD must have been so shaken.

BusySnipingOnCallOfDuty Tue 05-Mar-19 22:06:57

I know it shouldnt be needed in the first place, but is it aorth laminating a notice to stick on the back of the chair saying its ok, ive got this, but if you think i havent then please ASK me

ColeHawlins Tue 05-Mar-19 22:08:51

* I know it shouldnt be needed in the first place, but is it aorth laminating a notice to stick on the back of the chair saying its ok, ive got this, but if you think i havent then please ASK me*

Good idea.

Or simply "Do NOT touch the handles!!"

pastabest Tue 05-Mar-19 22:09:36

People who do this aren't trying to be kind. If they were trying to be kind they would have treated her like luggage.

It's a power/virtue signalling thing.

On a far lesser scale I recently had a young gentleman step aside (very purposefully) to let me past in a supermarket aisle. There was plenty of room for us to pass without either of us to have to move and it was completely unnecessary, so unnecessary that I didn't even realise he had moved over especially for me until he sarcastically said 'you're welcome'.

I eyerolled.

pastabest Tue 05-Mar-19 22:10:34

wouldn't have treated her like luggage effing autocorrect.

Booboostwo Tue 05-Mar-19 22:11:27

That is really awful, your poor DD. I cannot imagine why anyone would think that was an appropriate way to be helpful. Helping has to be helpful!

SrSteveOskowski Tue 05-Mar-19 22:13:35

YANBU OP, what he did is completely wrong. He should have asked if your DD needed any help, not just grabbed her chair and manhandled it.
I hope your DD is okay.

MustBeAWeasly Tue 05-Mar-19 22:15:28

That's shocking! And to start shouting at her aftwards aswell! I would never just presume I could touch someone's chair without asking if they needed me to

Can I ask any wheelchair users if stopping to ask her if she needed help would be welcomed or be taken as slightly patronising? As presumably she's quite capable at getting round herself

ColeHawlins Tue 05-Mar-19 22:16:46

I wouldn't mind being asked @MustBeAWeasly but personally I wouldn't let a stranger push me unless in an emergency.

QuestionableMouse Tue 05-Mar-19 22:18:58

Do not give her hairspray or chilli oil to use. Someone could quite easily take it off her and use it against her. @ColeHawlins that's terrible advice to give and I hope you're joking.

SemperIdem Tue 05-Mar-19 22:20:19

Yanbu to feel upset.

It would never occur to me to touch a wheelchair users wheelchair without asking them.

As a pp said, that’s akin to picking someone up and trying to carry them off to “help”.

Hope your daughter is ok.

ColeHawlins Tue 05-Mar-19 22:24:31

It's what I do @QuestionableMouse and it makes me feel safer. I suppose a lot of the benefit is psychological but the reality is that most people who might attack you when you use mobility aids are stronger than you anyway. So 🤷🏻‍♀️. They can't control my chair and fight me for the spray at the same time.

anniehm Tue 05-Mar-19 22:25:16

It's never ok to just grab the handles (unless an emergency like it freewheeling down a steep road which I've seen) however it is ok to ask if someone needs hope.

NiceNewShiny Tue 05-Mar-19 22:30:55

OP, YANBU (but pretty sure you knew that already)

HennyPennyHorror Tue 05-Mar-19 22:36:59

Cole really? You'd spray someone with chilli spray for mistakenly "helping" without asking??

Obviously if someone's attacking you then that's fine but a mistaken, well meant gesture??

Mum2jenny Tue 05-Mar-19 22:37:40

I once helped a wheelchair user when he'd got the wheelchair stuck. I did ask if he wanted help first. It was stuck in very soft mushy mud on a slope though.

I think it's only polite to ask if the wheelchair user wants help first before just jumping in!

Hedgehogblues Tue 05-Mar-19 22:40:47

@HennyPennyHorror

So if someone started pulling you about without asking, you'd be fine with that would you?

ColeHawlins Tue 05-Mar-19 22:44:12

* Cole really? You'd spray someone with chilli spray for mistakenly "helping" without asking??*

Yeah, cos that's what I said 🙄

Obviously if someone's attacking you then that's fine but a mistaken, well meant gesture??

Same rules apply able or disabled. If someone tries to bodily move you without permission, you tell them to stop. If they don't stop, even when you yell, you come to the reasonable conclusion that you're being attacked/abducted and respond accordingly, to stop them or protect yourself.

I'm concerned that you're not familiar with these ideas.

OP's DD is - quite naturally - shaken about the fact that no one came to her aid, and thinking what could have happened if the guy had had malign intent. All perfectly natural.

HennyPennyHorror Tue 05-Mar-19 22:49:25

Cole no need for concern thanks. I am familiar. But OP said her DD was moved and the man stopped when she shouted at him.

So I assumed you meant that you'd spray someone immediately.

Justheretogiveaviewfrommyworld Tue 05-Mar-19 22:50:03

Awful thing to happen and not trying to excuse it at all, but could the man have been from another culture, where his actions would be (wrongly) deemed acceptable? My nephew is in a wheelchair (not able to go out alone or to uni. sad) and we have had various reactions from people from different cultures when we have taken him out. People seem to either try to stroke his face or ruffle his hair, hmm which though very patronising to a 19 yo man is not as vile as one lady who told my sister she had obviously been visited by evil spirits when pregnant! angry

user1473878824 Tue 05-Mar-19 22:51:40

That’s AWFUL! Who just grabs someone’s wheelchair! To be honest, I might feel awkward about asking in case I was being insensitive, but would rather do that than not, if that makes sense? Never, ever would I just start pushing someone’s wheelchair! I’m aghast.

cakedup Tue 05-Mar-19 22:52:57

How invasive, of course he should have asked.

To be honest, I'm never sure whether to even ask or not.

Hedgehogblues Tue 05-Mar-19 22:54:24

I'm a wheelchair user. For me asking is fine as long as you respect when I say no and listen to what I need/want you to do

ColeHawlins Tue 05-Mar-19 22:54:26

* Cole no need for concern thanks. I am familiar. But OP said her DD was moved and the man stopped when she shouted at him.*

So I assumed you meant that you'd spray someone immediately.

This isn't difficult to understand.

If the thread was a about an able bodied young woman who had been grabbed by the arm by a man who yelled at her when she wriggled free, you wouldn't be questioning suggestions to make her feel safer. You'd understand that small incidents of being grabbed make you aware of your vulnerability. That's all this is.

Your very first sentence on this thread was "I've learnt not to do that", all proud of yourself because you eventually learnt not to manhandle other human beings.

I don't think you understand how badly you're coming across here.

ColeHawlins Tue 05-Mar-19 22:57:17

* To be honest, I might feel awkward about asking in case I was being insensitive, but would rather do that than not, if that makes sense?*

You can always just ask "Are you okay? Do you need some help?"

As you would to anyone struggling with heavy shopping/ buggy on steps/ high heels on ice. You don't have to suggest pushing them. People will tell you what help they need if you make a general offer.

Dhalandchips Tue 05-Mar-19 23:00:56

How rude! If Im offered help and I need it, then I'll accept. If people try pushing me without asking first, I put the brakes on. It causes them to stop suddenly and almost fall over me but it gets the point across!

IAmNotAWitch Tue 05-Mar-19 23:03:23

How appallingly rude and upsetting.

A quick "Hi, would you like some help?" is fine and not exactly outside of the box thinking.

Fluffyears Tue 05-Mar-19 23:06:22

That’s awful would he pick up an able bodied female and march off? Help is one thing. I offered a young lady who was loading her shopping into a car and trying to keep her dog from escaping some help. I offered to take her two baskets back to the shop from the carpark as I was heading into the store. That’s fine but taking over their autonomy when asked to stop is not helping. If anyone ever says ‘stop’ when you are doing something to then you stop!.

Piehunter Tue 05-Mar-19 23:08:25

Someone once "helped" me over a speed bump that I was just moving into position to wheelie over, their "well meant" gesture meant they tipped me face first out of my chair... I shouted at her out of shock and told her she should never push someone without asking, I could have done it safely by myself, she was so insistent she was helping even after I'd been injured by her shock. I got fold down handles on my next chair as I have sometimes needed a friend to help up a huge hill or across crazy countryside, but people just took to pushing the (very low!) back of my chair instead. It's not well meant, it is something people need to understand, chair is part of you and should not be leant on, pushed, etc etc. We don't pick people up in the streets or lean on them!!

Sybil606 Tue 05-Mar-19 23:08:34

Your daughter had EVERY RIGHT to shout at that man to STOP! It wasn't his place to just 'overpower' the situation and take control of your daughter's wheelchair. The fact that 'he thought he was doing good' but should have ASKED first. No different to being mugged by a stranger.

SteppinOutwithMyBaby Tue 05-Mar-19 23:15:31

@longtompot: I have very bad RA. I now use a biologics, but before that I was extremely unsteady on my feet and was due to have a double knee replacement.

I had attended the same church for a decade and used to sit away from people because my whole body hurt, especially if bumped. A couple of people I knew used to unobtrusively get me a chair, etc.

I used a walking stick and always left early to avoid the crowds. One day I had just stood up, and, out of nowhere, a woman grabbed me. She was leaving at the same time, and when her son turned around to query her delay, she loudly announced "I'm just helping this lady."

I was furious for so many reasons. I didn't know this woman to speak to. I had just gone through a bereavement and had lost the only person who I really wanted to help me physically, and he always asked before doing so. Also, I have always had a great need for personal body space and can't bear being touched by random people. And overall, it made me feel like a figure to be pitied. She didn't see me as an individual, just as a thing to be patronised. I know I probably built it up to be more than it was, but I wanted to punch that woman, largely because of what she represented.

It brought home to me how much my life sucked. Everything seemed to have fallen apart. I was no longer a person, but a "charity case." You are reduced to just an illness, or in your daughter's case, a wheelchair user, not an intelligent individual with unique emotions.

With medicine and new knees. my health has improved, but I still can't bear to go back to that church because of it signifies everything that was horrible in my life at that time. I know I'm probably being a drama queen, but so be it.

jimmyhill Tue 05-Mar-19 23:16:33

I always carry hairspray. Or chilli oil spray. Or both. Buy her one of each and make sure she's prepared to use them.

This is bad advice and is not lawful

ColeHawlins Tue 05-Mar-19 23:26:22

* It brought home to me how much my life sucked. Everything seemed to have fallen apart. I was no longer a person, but a "charity case." You are reduced to just an illness, or in your daughter's case, a wheelchair user, not an intelligent individual with unique emotions.*

With medicine and new knees. my health has improved, but I still can't bear to go back to that church because of it signifies everything that was horrible in my life at that time. I know I'm probably being a drama queen, but so be it.

thanks

Loanhelp Tue 05-Mar-19 23:35:10

Someone once tried to take my dad off me. I was his carer and in my late teens, and they decided I couldn't cope. They literally barged me out the way and started to push his chair. They were nothing short of indignant when both me and dad told them to fuck off. It really hurt him too, as it slammed him about in his chair.

IthinkIsawahairbrushbackthere Tue 05-Mar-19 23:41:46

My mum a wheelchair user. She doesn't have the strength to push herself at all and she is very nervous with anyone pushing her except me (a whole different story). She would hate it if anyone moved her without her expecting it. If we are out and about and someone offers to help we are always very grateful but rarely take them up on the offer.

In the case of the OP's daughter it must have been terrifying. There would be no knowing if it was someone being helpful or stupid. Really sorry that happened to her.

longtompot Tue 05-Mar-19 23:46:50

@AteppinOutwithMyBaby flowers She has a chronic pain condition, and actually when I first heard her voice on the phone call and her saying some guy had grabbed her, I thought she was seriously hurt and I was trying to think just how quickly we could get to her. She is only 45 mins away, on a good day, so not too far.

I didn't think I was being unreasonable with asking what I have asked. I have sent her the link to this topic so she can see that actually she was not over reacting by what she said and how she is feeling. I do think the guy was acting with best intentions, but he went about it all wrong.
She has had a few weird things happen whilst being at uni, when going around the town. Religious people grabbing her hands and trying to 'heal' her, to people making jibes and hoping she'd get run over by a bus!!

I'm sorry, but not surprised, others have experienced these things. She said she couldn't put her brakes on due to the hill.

mindgoinground12 Tue 05-Mar-19 23:51:55

It might have been ment as a well meaning gesture, but who knows!! People are right somebody's wheelchair is an extension of themselves it's like grabbing someone else's body. Not right.
Your poor DD.
I have 3 sons that of and on use wheelchairs but especially my 14 year old and I worry so much about something happing like this with them and how I tell them to deal with it, I like you worry. DS hasn't had the confidence to go fully out on his own and I worry that it's stuff like this that make him scared. It's lovely to hear how independent your DD is (I really don't mean that to sound patronising!!!) I hope my son will get the confidence one day.

PickAChew Wed 06-Mar-19 00:00:08

Fine to ask but not fine to start pushing, unasked.

If you were waiting a long time to cross a busy road, would you be happy with someone grabbing your hand and dragging you across?

cakedup Thu 07-Mar-19 22:49:36

*Religious people grabbing her hands and trying to 'heal' her, to people making jibes and hoping she'd get run over by a bus!!

I'm sorry, but not surprised*

I'm utterly shocked to be honest. Do people really behave like this?? That is just unreal. Disgusting behaviour. They are the ones with the disability.

MumW Thu 07-Mar-19 23:09:56

I'm sure it was a well meaning intention but I can understand if she felt threatened.

In that situation, I might have said "Are you ok, or would you like a hand?" I would never just take over, that's just rude.

Serin Thu 07-Mar-19 23:12:23

I was looking after my friends DD (who is a wheelchair user) at an event in a cathedral, as the bishops procession was about to pass through one of his attendants walked over to us, pointed at friends DD and said "move that". I was shocked and sickened, He hadn't seen a child at all, just a chair that was in the way.
Some people are bloody rude OP.
Hope your DD is ok now.

LudoFriend Fri 08-Mar-19 00:34:32

I'm in a wheelchair and have experienced people offering to help (always appreciated), and deciding to help. One is great, the other is terrifying. It feels like an assault, and I don't think non wheelchair users get this. I've also been moved out of the way, spoken to like a child, spoken about as if I'm not there etc. It's shocking how bad people will act while 'being kind' or 'helping'. No advice, but lots of understanding.

pineapplebryanbrown Fri 08-Mar-19 01:06:45

It hadn't occurred to me that people even do this, it's insane. My Dad has recently started needing an attendant propelled chair and I've found people to be so kind and helpful. But we're very new to it and it's very exhausting pushing a chair around. All the manoeuvring is really hard.

I'm sure self propelled is a different kettle of fish.

sueelleker Fri 08-Mar-19 09:42:09

It's like grabbing an old person's arm and dragging them across the road without asking.

DGRossetti Fri 08-Mar-19 10:08:54

Just a crystal clear example that a lot of people only see the wheelchair, not the person in it sad.

Hotpinkparade Fri 08-Mar-19 10:12:28

Totally out of order. I have a family member (child) who uses a wheelchair and sometimes staff in shops have literally just taken it upon themselves to move his chair if he’s in there way. I’ve fully taken them to task on this, pointing out that he isn’t a piece of furniture and they wanted just pick up or shove another 8 year old out of the way, they’d talk to them or the adult with them. It’s amazing the shit people will do without thinking about how intrusive it is.

Hotpinkparade Fri 08-Mar-19 10:13:42

Correction above, they wouldnt just move another child

ColeHawlins Fri 08-Mar-19 10:16:27

Ha, yes, can you imagine supermarket staff just lifting random children out of the way? It would never happen, and oddly people don't do it to prams or buggies much, either.

TinklyLittleLaugh Fri 08-Mar-19 10:22:57

I’ve been moved out of the way many times in shops.

ColeHawlins Fri 08-Mar-19 10:26:53

It's disgusting behaviour, isn't it @TinklyLittleLaugh ?

I also periodically get people stand still and tut at me. Whether for existing or for being in their way, I'm never sure. That's not much better, TBH.

Elfers Fri 08-Mar-19 10:38:49

If you and /or your daughter are Twitter users, I'd suggest looking up the #JustAskDontGrab hashtag, discussing the difficulties caused to disabled people by supposed "well-meaning helpers" which can result in anxiety, stress and downright danger at times.

A lot of people are sharing similar stories, discussing strategies and educating others. and you (both) might find it useful.

To quote @BlondeHistorian " #JustAskDontGrab (is) forever connects with it. If you’ve had these experiences then it’s your hashtag too! Wheelchair users, people with canes or walkers, people with Guide dogs or canes. If someone has unhelpfully grabbed you then feel free to talk about it. Thank you for sharing"

Dillydallyingthrough Fri 08-Mar-19 17:22:42

OP I'm so angry for your DD- that must have been an absolutely terrifying experience.

Although the comment that I'm a bit hmm about is - I’ve learnt not to do that

@Henrysmycat is this a phrase I'm unfamiliar with? Because I can't grasp why you would need to learn not to do this? Surely you just KNOW that this is disgusting.

LuvSmallDogs Fri 08-Mar-19 17:27:01

That sounds bloody scary, imagine some stranger coming up and taking control of your legs, just dragging you off somewhere! I’ve never considered doing something like that to a wheelchair user, have offered help with packing shopping (packing areas can be awkward to reach fully when seated) and folded people’s chairs into their boots once they’re in their car.

DGRossetti Fri 08-Mar-19 17:30:26

Of course a wheelchair user not in the way becomes invisible ...

ColeHawlins Fri 08-Mar-19 17:39:06

So true @DGRossetti grin

10IAR Fri 08-Mar-19 17:44:55

Just a crystal clear example that a lot of people only see the wheelchair, not the person in it

This. The people trying to justify it are part of the problem that people with a disablity face on a daily basis.

If you wouldn't do it to someone who wasn't disabled, don't fucking do it to someone who is!

DGRossetti Fri 08-Mar-19 17:51:30

On the plus side, the way modern developments are going - rough cobbled pavements, bumps everywhere, broken lifts and cluttered shops, there will probably be fewer people able to use wheelchairs "in the wild" year on year. So it's a temporary problem ....

Henrysmycat Fri 08-Mar-19 18:11:22

Message deleted by MNHQ. Here's a link to our Talk Guidelines.

Henrysmycat Fri 08-Mar-19 20:51:49

Dillydally wind your neck in, calling me disgusting. There’s nothing disgusting about wanting to help and not thinking about it causing offence. Now, I know better.

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