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The Deadly Sins of Wheelchair-Pushers

  • Posted by The Goldfish
  • 8 Jan 08, 2:57 PM

Since it seems to be Wheelchair Month here at the Ouch! Blog...

Being pushed is rubbish. Using any kind of wheelchair comes with its frustrations, but having to be pushed in a manual wheelchair is by far the most demoralising mode of getting about that I can imagine (and I'm of the space-hopper generation). Apart from the fact that you become even more ignorable than those who can self-propel, you are acutely aware of the fact that it is a chore for the person pushing; they face all the obstacles one faces with a wheelchair, as well as the physical effort of pushing another person about everywhere.

So unless the person pushing you is being paid to do so, it is very difficult to complain without seeming terribly ungrateful. I shall therefore use this opportunity to tactfully advise PAs, carers and all our kindly vertical friends of

The Six Deadly Sins of Wheelchair-Pushers

1. Sound FX - This is a sin most often committed by those blokish types who feel compelled to accompany the pushing of any wheeled item - a wheelbarrow, a shopping trolley and of course the wheelchair - with "brum brum" car-noises, screeches around corners and so on.

This is usually just annoying, but should you keep shunting me into kerbs and respond with a cheerful "Boiiing!" I may get the impression you are not taking the task very seriously.

2. Rhythm - Some people drum their fingers a lot as a habit whilst thinking, which is completely and utterly harmless until they do it on the handles of the wheelchair. At which point it goes right down my spine and is... nasty. If your pushee complains about this, please take it seriously. It might really hurt.

3. Ambition - If in doubt, go the long way round or don't go at all. My family enjoy the great outdoors and in my time I have been pushed and pulled, dragged and hauled over all manner of inhospitable terrain. Which is usually very uncomfortable, but it is also tremendous hard work for them - work they are happy to do because it must be a great treat for me.

I realise that I have a responsibility to be more assertive about such matters, but still; if it's really hard work for you, it is almost certainly uncomfortable for me.

4. Parking - It really is deeply humiliating to have to be parked outside a place which is inaccessible while the pusher runs an errand within. It is sometimes necessarily I know, but I am not a dog who may be tied to a lamppost. If I must be parked, please consider where I am placed such that I (a) am not in anyone's way and (b) that I am not facing a brick wall. Thanks.

5. Ventriloquism - If you are being pushed, strangers will very frequently address the person pushing you instead of yourself. However, it adds insult to injury when the pusher proceeds to speak for you - or worse, about you - when you are sitting there like a lemon.

6. Aggression - I like pushers who realise that wheelchair-users have just as much a right on the pavement as everyone else, but it is really very embarrassing to be pushed into the backs of people's calves. If people appear to ignore our requests for them to move, I tend to assume that they have some hearing impairment or are slow because of some mobility impairment; ramming me into their legs is unlikely to help any of us.

Of course, there should be seven deadly sins, but I may already have guaranteed being taken for a long stroll along a short pier. Anyone got any nominations for the seventh?

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Wot no...? syndrome.

This is where a pusher realises that hanging a shopping bag off the handles of a wheelchair interferes with the wheels, and since the reason the pusher has no hands free to carry shopping is because they are being considerate enough to do the pushing, the pushee tries to return the consideration by offering to hold said shopping bag on their lap.

Six shops later, and the pushee is peering over several large bags of the pusher's purchases while trying not to drop any of them. Looks much like this.

I sometimes use a chair and I can't roll it myself, so I need a pusher. I actually don't mind being pushed and quite like it when my girlfriend is, uh, behind me. I didn't use a chair for years and now that I have one, we are able to go further and do more things.

But there are pitfalls:I have been crushed by shopping bags, bumped into things as she fails to make a corner or misjudges the distance my feet stick out and was tipped out once when we hit some cables. But when she clips someone in the back of the leg, they turn around and apologize profusely -- so Canadian. It's kinda funny.

Perhaps the 7th sin would be pushing the chair too close to people when you meet up with a group. If I'm too close all I see are their mid-sections and I end up craning my neck and looking up their noses. Toooo childlike. Back it up, please!

  • 3.
  • At 12:07 PM on 15 Jan 2008, Boris the Spider wrote:

Electric wheelchairs - even better, jet-powered wheelchairs - for all! Now! :) Great post, Miss Goldfish!

Sin number seven "Invading the personal space that is my wheelchair".

I do not want to be lifted up and banged down. And if you must lift me, you ASK first and only do so when I say OK. It hurts, goddamnit!

I do not want you to lean on my chair or use it as a table. I do not balance drinks on your legs, nor lean on them to write something.

  • 5.
  • At 06:34 PM on 15 Jan 2008, Helen wrote:

Two nominations for Sin no. 7
1. Do not go down a kerb at an angle. We could easily tip.
2. Slow down a bit, if you hit a jutting paving stone we could tip forwards and you will get a nasty bang in the guts.

  • 6.
  • At 10:14 AM on 16 Jan 2008, Colleen Ann Gardiner wrote:

Okay Guys sin number seven is so obvious. Having to go into the shops the pusher wants to go in and not the ones you want to go to.

Number 7 - Leaning post.
The wheelchair is not a handy place to rest an elbow, nor lean any other body part against* for respite from the pusher's usual bipedal stance.

*Although if the pusher does decide to lean against the chair, a swift release of the brakes will often remedy the problem and remind them of who is really in control...


  • 8.
  • At 09:31 AM on 27 Jan 2008, Pen wrote:

Thanks for those. I have started to need to push my son in a wheel chair sometimes. It makes it possible for us to go places that would be difficult or impossible otherwise, but it's hardly an ideal solution. I appreciate the clearly expressed needs here. It's bad enough for a kid to be ignored and bossed around by adults, let alone have their autonomy taken away all together.

Sin 7: Do not get mad at the pushee and SHAKE their wheelchair. Yes, this happened to me. Yes, I consider it to be assault and told the pusher so.

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