The Manual Wheelchair Training Guide
by Axelson P, Chesney D, Minkel J & Perr A
Setting Limits and Offering Help
It can be hard to admit you have reached your limits. However, you should safeguard your own health and well-being. You need to know your limits and how to say "no" when you have reached them.
How to Say "No"
It is important to understand that you do not have to assist a wheelchair rider if it will make you uncomfortable. This could result in injury to the wheelchair rider or yourself. For example, pushing a wheelchair up a curb with an injured back could be painful and may cause further injury. Do not be afraid to say "No." The following are several ways to decline help:
Don't put yourself at risk of injury when helping a wheelchair user.
Sometimes watching a wheelchair rider do something is difficult because you can see that whatever he or she is doing is not easy. Keep in mind that the person may not want assistance; it may be important for him or her to accomplish the activity independently. It might be easier for the wheelchair rider to do the activity alone than to explain to others how they can help. The wheelchair rider might have had bad experiences in the past when people tried to help. The wheelchair user might even be out exercising. It may be difficult to watch, but you do not necessarily need to help the person.
Only assist a wheelchair rider when you are asked and/or have been given permission. If you think a wheelchair rider might need assistance, offer. The wheelchair rider may be in a position that looks precarious, but have the situation under control. Unexpected assistance might throw him or her off balance.
Don't help unless you are asked or your offer to assist is accepted. You could jostle the wheelchair user off balance or take him or her in a direction he or her didn't intend to go.
If your offer to assist has been accepted, the wheelchair rider is in charge. Ask the rider how you can help and follow his or her instructions. Ask the rider to talk you through the sequence before trying it, then work together to do it correctly.
Last Updated: February 5, 2001