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"Strangers won't stop touching me": Why are some people over-familiar with wheelchair users?

Cher_ScopeCher_Scope Posts: 3,303

Scope community team

edited October 2020 in Disabled people
Shona Louise talks in today's Metro about her experience of members of the public touching her and her wheelchair when she is out and about.

She describes how this used to happen regularly pre covid-19 and continues to do so, despite the risk it presents in passing on the virus.  
"I’ve spent most of the year doing my best to protect myself, and the idea that all of that could have been undone by one person left me feeling incredibly exasperated."

Thinking about the reasons behind people's motives, Shona raises lots of important questions about how disabled people are 'seen' by non-disabled others.  

The presumption that she can be approached and touched irrespective of her own free-will suggests she is perceived as child-like or an object of pity or fascination.  This disregards her as a rights-bearing adult and leaves her, understandably, feeling frustrated and angered.  

Unfortunately, these are age-old disability issues that speak more to the discriminatory attitudes of non-disabled people than Shona herself.

On how to tackle this in-appropriate behaviour, Shona mentions a twitter campaign called #JustAskDontGrab set up by Dr. Amy Kavanagh who is visually impaired.  This hashtag draws attention to the many reasons why wheelchair-users should not be touched without consent.

Have any of our members experienced similar inappropriate advances in public?  How do you deal with unwanted interactions?  What are your thoughts?  Let me know in the comments below.
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Replies

  • janer1967janer1967 Member Posts: 9,068 Disability Gamechanger
    Hi interesting in all honesty I find the exact opposite that people make a effort to distance themselves I think in case you might ask them for some help 
  • Cher_ScopeCher_Scope Posts: 3,303

    Scope community team

    edited October 2020
    @janer1967 Ohh, to be honest I've seen people do that too.  Does it bother you?

    It'd be great if one day we could reach a point where people don't feel the need to overcompensate or avoid those in wheelchairs, but just accept them as people!  Positively, it's good that more people feel able to speak up about their experiences now.
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  • janer1967janer1967 Member Posts: 9,068 Disability Gamechanger
    The only time it bothers me is if I am struggling eg trying to reach things on shelves in supermarkets and you see that someone is just watching you struggle and swiftly moves on

    I understand they may not want to ask if you need help as some disabled are very independant

    I also find it hard when on my scooter when people stop in front of you suddenly its hard to stop instantly on a scooter so I have to make sure I leave enough space behind yherm (not hard now with social distancing )
  • PhilipAndersonPhilipAnderson Member Posts: 17 Connected
    Thanks for sharing Shona Louise's article.

    Coincidently, the touch topic has been much in mind, and I have recently written about it for Independent Living in which I share an experience in a theatre with my wife

    As people returned to their seats after the interval, I was patted on my legs, arms, and head – all within a minute of each other! Their eyes conveyed pity, and I am sure they meant well, but being in a wheelchair hasn't morphed me into a dog, yearning to be petted.

    I'd welcome comments on the article
  • Ross_ScopeRoss_Scope Posts: 3,083

    Scope community team

    Thanks for sharing @PhilipAnderson, I'm sorry that happened to you.
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  • OverlyAnxiousOverlyAnxious Member Posts: 1,253 Disability Gamechanger
    I didn't know this was a thing, I wonder why anyone thinks it's ok to go around patting people?

    As a tall person, I used to regularly get asked to reach high shelf groceries pre-covid, usually from elderly and/or disabled people.  I find it pretty awkward dealing with anyone at all so would never ask them first but would always oblige if they asked me.  There is a guy I often see in my local supermarket that stands up out of his power-chair to reach things.  I'm well aware that not all chair users are paralysed from the waist down but it was still a shock first time I saw it lol.  I don't know how we could ever reach the point where we automatically know how much help someone needs or doesn't need.  :| 
  • PhilipAndersonPhilipAnderson Member Posts: 17 Connected
    Thanks for sharing @PhilipAnderson, I'm sorry that happened to you.
    Ross, I can laugh at it now. Having had to shelter from Covid for 7 months, I'm almost missing being touched by strangers! 
  • Tori_ScopeTori_Scope Posts: 3,999

    Scope community team

    I think a lot of people can relate to that on some level @PhilipAnderson! I found your article really interesting- thank you for sharing.
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  • PhilipAndersonPhilipAnderson Member Posts: 17 Connected
    I think a lot of people can relate to that on some level @PhilipAnderson! I found your article really interesting- thank you for sharing.
    Thanks Tori, I'm glad you found it interesting.

    If you get a moment, read the comments. There are some profound thoughts from others, which you might find more enjoyable than the article! Please fee free to add your thoughts too
  • Tori_ScopeTori_Scope Posts: 3,999

    Scope community team

    I'll bookmark it and read the comments later @PhilipAnderson :) 
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  • PhilipAndersonPhilipAnderson Member Posts: 17 Connected
    You're very kind, Tori, thank you
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