Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Patience is a virtue

Last night, I was waiting on Granville Street downtown for a bus. It was really cold so when the bus came, I was a bit antsy to get on.

Apparently someone else was even antsier.

I'll call him Impatient Businessman. When the front doors opened, he stepped aside. The driver started deploying the wheelchair ramp. When the ramp was at an approximately 90 degrees' angle from the ground, Impatient Businessman somehow lost his patience and stepped forward to enter the bus, only to find that the ramp was about to lower on to him. Genius.

So the ramp finally came down and I started to get on the bus. For some reason, after I had one full push of my wheels, Impatient Businessman somehow saw it fit to push my wheelchair from behind in a rush to get on.

For the uninitiated, there are several reasons why you should never do this. Some are obvious, some are not.

  1. It is dangerous. When I push my wheelchair, I am in control. Because most non-temporary wheelchair users have custom-built wheelchairs, they can predict exactly how their chairs will behave in certain situations. If someone suddenly exerts force on the chair unexpectedly, the wheelchair becomes unpredictable and the wheelchair user may get hurt; for example, the unexpected change in speed may get his/her fingers caught in the rear wheels' push rims. In some cases, the center of gravity may be affected and the wheelchair may tip.
  2. It is degrading. Assuming we need assistance without asking is degrading and rude. It is similar to other prejudiced assumptions in other situations, like assuming Asians don't speak English. It is okay when the situation clearly calls for it, but the general golden rule is if we need help, we will ask for it.
  3. Touching someone's wheelchair is like touching someone's body. While it is true that the wheelchair isn't part of our bodies, it should be treated as such when it comes to touching and proximity. Impatient Businessman's behavior is basically the equivalent of someone shoving you from behind. Unless authorized, touching someone else's wheelchair is a big no-no.

The general allowances that are made are for drivers, who sometimes help wheelchair users. In this case, it can be seen as them doing their job since ensuring safety is one of their responsibilities, and it's hard to blame them for making sure things are done properly before starting the bus. But note that drivers generally don't push anyone's wheelchairs. There's a reason for that. Too bad Impatient Businessman didn't realize it.

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