You and your employees may be skilled drivers, but driving people in wheelchairs can still be challenging - especially if you don't use the proper etiquette. It's a good best practice to keep a few helpful tips in mind to become a safer and more accommodating driver for people in wheelchairs.
Although many people seem to believe that people use wheelchairs because they are immobile, this is not always the case. In fact, many use wheelchairs on a temporary or as-needed basis. Therefore, they may prefer to stand to get out of the vehicle rather than staying in the wheelchair the entire time. Instead of assuming that you know a person's preferences, ask them instead.
Speak to them Directly
Never undermine the person in the wheelchair by speaking to their caregiver instead of them. Although their caregiver may need to answer certain questions, it's a common courtesy to ask the person in the wheelchair directly before you attempt to ask anyone else.
Don't Make Comments on the Wheelchair
The person in the wheelchair is already well aware of the fact that they're in one. There's no need to make comments, ask questions, compliment or criticize the wheelchair itself for any reason. There's really no need to state the obvious by highlighting their use of a wheelchair. It may only make them uncomfortable.
Avoid Physical Contact
There's no reason to take it upon yourself to touch a person in a wheelchair unless you have been granted permission. Just as with someone who isn't in a wheelchair, it can be rude, demeaning or even triggering to touch them without their permission.
Accept their Assistance
If the person in the wheelchair offers to help you with anything, you should accept the help. For instance, if they want to hold bags, adjust their own chair, etc. you should allow them to do so unless you're sure they that cannot do it.
Never Ask to Use the Chair
Although you would think this would go without saying, sadly it doesn't. Some people get inappropriately comfortable when dealing with people in wheelchairs. So much so, that they even ask them if they can use or take a ride in their chair. This is a huge no-no as it can be highly offensive to the person in the wheelchair. No matter what they're using the chair for, it's certainly not for the entertainment of others.
Don't Ask Personal Questions
No matter how comfortable you get, do not start asking too many questions and especially not anything overly personal. While it's fine to talk to them and get to know them, make sure you allow them to lead the conversation. Allow the conversation to naturally progress and be sure to be personable but not so much so, that you make them feel judged or uncomfortable.
Overall, driving people in wheelchairs can be as difficult as it can be rewarding. On the one hand, while you need to be sure to adhere to the tips mentioned here, doing so can allow you to play a very meaningful part in their lives. People in wheelchairs are no different from people who are not in wheelchairs, however, they do have some unique challenges. Either way, by taking the time to adhere to these tips, you'll be able to easily drive around with people in wheelchairs without worrying about injuring, misunderstanding, or offending them in any way.
If your company offers paratransit services or if you’re in the business of transporting people as a convenience that supports your primary business, and you’re not providing the same service for passengers who use wheelchairs or scooters, then you could be putting your company at risk.
To find out more about van conversions to meet ADA compliance for your vehicles, contact us at Nor Cal Vans.
Nor Cal Vans designs and builds transportation solutions that change people’s lives. We serve a broad range of industries with our innovative new and used van conversion options including government, education, airport/group transportation, non-emergency medical, secure transport, and refrigeration. We’ve been solving transportation needs for nearly four decades and strive to hold true to our values of teamwork, trust, accountability, growth and a positive attitude.