I am a wide supporter of the disabled and devices that help them live better and easier lives. However, in the last few years, I’ve witnessed odd behavior on the streets, and in public gathering spaces, that sounds an alarm of concern. Some people in wheelchairs — actually, the person pushing the wheelchair, not the rider — and those who use canes, are beginning to use those facilitation devices as weapons!

I understand people being pushed in wheelchairs have no control over how fast or carefully they move down the street, and I’m sure the person pushing the wheelchair easily tires of having to deal with inconsiderate people on the street, but being over-tired is no reason to use a wheelchair as a battering ram on a crowded street to make sure you are not delayed on your way.

Several times, I have seen a wheelchair-pusher, using the more dangerous Reclining Wheelchair, “dive into” a crowd without slowing down — it’s as if they think people will “just move” because a metal wheelchair is coming their way. What these pushers don’t understand is the domino effect — some people might see or hear the wheelchair while others may not… they are silent vehicles! — and those who are stuck in the way of destruction will try to get out of the way by tumbling into other nonplussed bystanders who, most often, become the injured.

I’ve seen people yell at the wheelchair pushers for this boorish behavior — but there is never an apology or even an acknowledgement of the bad behavior.

The other dangerous act I’ve seen is a more passive-aggressive way of using a cane as a weapon.  Sometimes, the person will angle the cane away from their body to protect their personal space and “kick you” with the cane if you get too close to them.

Other times, I’ve seen canes used to “clear a path” in a grocery store or restaurant to move people out-of-the-way.  A cane is not a machete and people are not the African bush!  Few people will say anything when struck by a cane like that — they just obediently move to let the person get ahead of them in line.

Do you think this bad behavior is one of entitlement or an artifact of pure disability?

14 Comments

  1. I wonder if it comes from a sort of anger that the bearer of the weapon / wheelchair / cane feels toward the people that they perceive as being more fortunate than they for not requiring the wheelchair / cane. It’s rather unfortunate if this is the case.

    1. I wonder the same thing, too, Gordon! I know that if you really need a cane, you use it as your third leg to steady you because your real legs are not strong enough. If you are able to lift your cane to hit someone out of the way, then I don’t think you really need a cane in the first place.

      I saw one woman at and outdoor concert pushing a bright red reclining wheelchair with a small child in the chair. The mother actually used that wheelchair as a plow to clear people out of the way. People were hit, and were hurt, and yet they apologized to the mother for being in way when they were not in the way at all!

  2. I know several people with wheelchairs – all except one are the epitome of good manners. The other a diasable activist does their cause more harm then good because of her agressive attitude both in and out of her wheel chair. She does not want equality she wants first place. She cuts up queues at parties using her chair and her disability to get to the table first rather than wait in turn – insisting on her right to go first because she is dsiabled. I would feel a little more compassionate if she was on sticks or had a problem standing – but it was only a matter of five minutes and she is sitting in her chair
    I cannot help but compare her attitude to a quadraplegic friend at the same party who always insists on waiting until after the rush so he can take his time without getting in anyones way.

    I think pain, anger at ones condition and the grace with which they choose to live thier lives has a lot to do with it. My quadraplegic friend has been that way since birth , The other lady has come to disability later in life and still carries her anger around in a very obvious way.

  3. Again I think it is a matter of anger/resentment and how people are helped to deal with their situation. If they have good support, and are treated with respect and compassion and they can ome to terms with their situation there should not be such a problem – but if they are not – the problems will start.

    In the UK there are savage cuts taking place in disability benefits, soldiers who have lost legs and arms being told they are fit to work – after being invalided out of the army – and having their benefits cut to zero . There is a whole new culture there where the disabled are viewed as scroungers and skivers they are being marginalised in a very agressive manner – there are a lot of very angry disabled people over there. It really is a very nasty place to live if you are disabled at the moment. The number of physical attacks on disabled people has gone up sharply. I can see why it would cause wheelchair rage .

    1. I think you’re right that a failing economy punishes the young and the disabled with the most brutality — older folk have a little bit of a cushion in that there are Senior Centers and other places that can offer at least a little bit of refuge from the brutality of the day.

      I wrote about this new movement in “The First Withering in a Failing Economy” —

      In the winnowing of State and Federal budgets, a silent move is afoot to defraud the rights of the Deaf in spite of the ADA — the Americans with Disabilities Act — by providing interpreters that are not certified, or even basically qualified, in order to save money, but to still be technically “in compliance” with, the tenets of the ADA.

      Uncertified interpreters cost a third as much per hour as a certified interpreter and there’s a reason for that: No formal training, no evaluation of skills, no Code of Ethics mandate and so on… that means anyone who signs — or thinks they can sign — can label themselves an “interpreter” and get hired because there are no prerequisites or conditions.

      http://bolesblogs.com/2009/11/24/the-first-withering-in-a-failing-economy/

  4. I am surprised that they are allowed to practice without certification – yes I understand that they have to be taught and they have to learn and some of that training will entail reali life-time encounters – but – and its a huge but they should not be used as an alternative to the real thing. It is also happening in the UK . It is one of the main problems with the disability assessements being done to strip the benefits from the disabled – they are being done by non-medical personel who have no conception of what being disabled is like

  5. I have actually seen people with wheelchairs, who can push themselves, and people with canes act this way. Sometimes I wonder if they feel obligated or feel like we owe them something and that allows them the opportunity to behave however they please. As for “pushers” I wish there was some way to regulate their behavior better, especially if their behavior is dangerous to the person in the wheelchair and those around them.

    1. Big wheelchairs like the one pictured in the article usually have a good braking system — and that’s what we need to regulate the pushers… some sort of speed control… because that’s how they plow their way through a crowd — quickly and with great perpetual force.

      1. Do you think there should be some sort of alarm put in place? Maybe one that detects speed control and another that detects when any of the wheels are off the ground for extended period of time? Maybe the constant stares from the public or annoyance of the alarm can “condition” some of the pushers to behave more appropriately.

          1. Hmmm… Maybe if there was some way to use mosquito noise? I remember in high school the students would use it to annoy the teachers or other students. So maybe if there was some kind of frequency that wheelchairs could use that wouldn’t necessarily cause harm to our ears but just let us me more aware of the fact that there might be a person with a wheelchair behind us or in the surrounding area that might work out.