1. “I’m only parking here for five minutes.”
No, you’re really not. It’s a disabled bay and you don’t have a permit, so get out of my space. I need this larger bay to get my wheelchair out of my car. Move.
2. “What have you done to your leg?”
Why would you ask a stranger such a personal question? It’s extremely rude and intrusive, and why assume I’m using a wheelchair because my legs don’t work?
3. “You’re too pretty to be in a wheelchair.”
Now, that’s a backhanded compliment if I’ve ever heard one. Disability doesn’t discriminate. I can still be fabulous and use a wheelchair.
4. “Can I have a go?”
Oh, of course, I’ll just go for a run while you go for a ride in my wheelchair. No. No. No.
5. Don’t speak to the person pushing me instead of me.
I have a voice, I’m an intelligent person and I can answer for myself.
6. “At least you don’t have to walk anywhere, I’m knackered.”
Yeah, because who would want to walk places and not be in agony?
7. “You’re such an inspiration.”
I never understand this one. How am I inspirational? I’m shopping for food — so inspirational.
8. “I’d rather be dead than in a wheelchair.”
Bloody hell, calm down, it’s not that bad. It takes some getting used to and it’s difficult, but surely living a life with adaptions is better than not living at all.
9. “Oh god, you can walk? What are you using that for then?”
Shock horror! We all use wheelchairs for various reasons; I use a wheelchair due to pain, fatigue and dislocations. I can’t walk that far, I can’t stand for long. Don’t assume that because someone is using a wheelchair their legs don’t work.
10. “How do you drive a car?”
I have an adapted vehicle and my legs work, just not as well as I’d like them to. Don’t look shocked when you see me getting out of my wheelchair and into the driver’s seat of a car.
11. Don’t move me out of your way.
Don’t ever think it’s OK to grab my wheelchair and move me without my consent. If I am in your way, don’t push my chair. Ask me politely and I’ll gladly make some space. I wouldn't push you out of my way if I was able-bodied, don't push me.
12. “Do you know Dave? He uses a wheelchair, too.”
Yes, every single person in the whole world who uses a wheelchair knows each other. How naive.
13. “I used a wheelchair when I broke my leg. I know exactly how you feel.”
You have no idea how I feel. You were wearing a plaster cast, and others would have been able to acknowledge you’ve suffered from an acute injury. You wouldn’t have experienced able-ism or the grief, sadness and acceptance of having to use a wheelchair full-time.
14. Don’t pat me on the head.
Oh my days, do not do this or I will run you over. I’m not an animal; it’s so rude and patronizing.
15. “Your partner must be a saint for putting up with you in that.”
No, he’s not a saint, he’s a normal guy who loves a girl who happens to be in a wheelchair.
16. Don’t lean on my wheelchair.
It’s not worth it. I will punch you, or I will move and you can fall on your ass.
17. "Slow down or you’ll get a speeding ticket.”
What a comedian. If only your motor-mouth could get a ticket.
18. “You’re too young to be in a wheelchair.”
There’s no age limit. Wheelchairs aren’t only for the elderly; my body is broken and hates me, therefore I need this to live a “normal” life.
19. Don’t take a picture of me when I stand up from my wheelchair.
Don’t assume everyone in a wheelchair can’t walk, and do not take pictures or make memes of disabled people.
A wheelchair is freedom. It means I can go out and do things. I wouldn’t be able to walk around a shopping center; I can barely walk to my car from my house. My current wheelchair is a pacing strategy that helps me do things without excessive pain or fatigue.
A wheelchair can be used for various reasons, so please think because you say something ridiculous.
What should I do if I meet a service dog team?
Thank you for taking the time to read about how to handle interactions with a service dog team. Keeping these points in mind when meeting or just passing by a service dog team will make a world of difference and the handler will certainly be appreciative.
1. Most importantly, do not distract the dog or interfere with his job.
In order to perform their jobs to the best of their abilities, service dogs must be able focus on either their handler, or the task at hand. Even though service dogs are trained to the highest of standards and typically ignore distractions, they are not infallible. A distracted service dog could slip up on a key part of his job and put he and his partner in danger. Some things that can distract a service dog are:
- Calling to the dog
- Making kissy, barking or other sounds at the dog
- Petting the dog without permission
Please do not allow young children or pets to interfere with a service dog team.
2. Do not be offended...
A. If a service dog handler will not let you pet his or her dog. Some service dog handlers have a strict “no petting” policy and some don’t. If a handler doesn’t allow petting, it may be because it would prevent the dog from performing his or her her job correctly. It is up to the handler to decide, on a case by case basis, whether others may pet the service dog.
B. If a service dog handler doesn’t stop to chat. Many service dog handlers are happy to answer respectful questions about their service dogs. However, this may not always be possible, as the handler may be in a hurry, may not feel well, or have other reasons not to be able to stop and talk at that moment.
3. Never offer food to a service dog without first receiving permission from his handler.
Even service dogs can be tempted by food. While service dogs are trained to ignore food on the ground and not to beg when there is food around, it can still serve as a distraction. Furthermore, not all dogs can eat all food- even dog food or dog treats. Feeding a service dog something that can cause an adverse reaction could not only make the dog sick, but this would also mean the dog cannot work until he is better. This would effectively take away his handler’s independence.
4. Offer help but do not insist.
Service dog handlers are very appreciative of others who ask them if they need any help. If you think a service dog handler may need some help, ask before acting. Do not attempt to take the dog’s leash or harness from the handler and do not attempt to physically move or direct a handler unless he or she has given you permission to do so. If a service dog handler rejects your offer to help, please respect his or her wishes.
Navigating roads with traffic can be very challenging for a service dog team. Many drivers and fellow pedestrians try to help, but end up making things more difficult for the team. Do not honk your horn at a service dog team to indicate that it is safe to cross the street, as this can make it more difficult for the handler to observe other signals that traffic has stopped. Do not announce from afar that it is safe to cross the street. If you are a fellow pedestrian, simply ask the handler if he or she would like help crossing the street.
5. Treat service dog handlers with dignity.
Speak to the handler, not to the dog. Speak to the handler as you would anyone else and do not ask personal questions about his or her disability.
6. Do not ask a service dog handler to have his or her dog demonstrate a task.
It is in poor taste to ask a service dog handler to cue the dog to demonstrate a task. Service dogs’ jobs revolve around mitigating their handlers’ disabilities, and disabilities are very personal matters. Furthermore, many service dogs do work that is dependent on very specific circumstances that cannot be recreated on a whim.
7. Do not draw unnecessary attention to a service dog team.
Pointing, exclaiming things like, “Look, a dog!” and doing other things to make a spectacle of a service dog team are rude and make service dog handlers feel uncomfortable. Allow a service dog handler to go about his or her business just as you would anyone else.
8. Do not photograph or video record a service dog team without permission.
9. Use an encounter with a service dog team as an opportunity to educate children (and adults!)
Explain to children what a service dog does and why it is important not to interfere with the team’s work. Also explain that not all disabilities are obvious to others.
10 Things Service Dog Handlers Want You To Know:
1.) My Service Dog Is Working
When you see my partner and I out and about in public, please understand that she’s doing vital work for me, even if she doesn’t “look like” she’s working to you. Just like when you’re working, she just wants (and needs) to be left alone to do her job. Please don’t distract my Service Dog from her job by yelling at her, talking to her, using baby talk at her, touching her, touching her equipment, crowding her, whistling at her, barking at her or otherwise doing anything except politely ignoring her.
2.) My Service Dog Is My Lifeline
Depending on my disability, my Service Dog may be the only thing standing between me and death. She’s my lifeline and she means the world to me. Please don’t distract her from doing her job or her tasks because my life, health, and peace of mind, rests in her paws. If you distract her and she isn’t able to respond appropriately, my ensuing illness or injury is YOUR fault. Please just ignore her entirely and let her focus on her job, which is keeping me safe.
3.) My Medical History Is Private
Please don’t ask me about my diagnosis, try to guess the reason I have a Service Dog, or ask me to disclose my private medical history. Even if you can’t readily tell what my disability may be, it’s really none of your business. Making inquiries about personal information is not only uncalled for, it’s very rude.
4.) I Don’t Always Want to Answer Questions
My Service Dog has made a huge difference in my life, but I don’t always want to stop and talk to every single person who wants to ask me about her. Sometimes, I just want to run a quick errand and go home, just like you. Please keep in mind that almost every person who sees me out in public with my Service Dog wants to ask me about her job, her purpose, her name, her breed, where she was trained, what she does, how old she is, and a plethora of other questions. Please don’t be offended if I’m slightly short or dodge your questions. Most of the time, they’re personal questions anyways and shouldn’t be asked.
5.) Not All Service Dogs Are The Same
Service Dogs come in all shapes, sizes, breeds, colors, coat types and specialities. You cannot identify one by sight alone and it doesn’t matter if you think my partner doesn’t “look like” a Service Dog. Unfortunately as well, fake Service Dogs are relatively common, and they do a lot of damage to legitimate teams. Please don’t judge my obviously well-trained, well-mannered, quiet, well-groomed, highly responsive Service Dog based on the behavior of some yappy, smelly, aggressive little mongrel someone claimed was a “Service Dog.” Behavior tells all, and I ask that you not compare me to any other Service Dog handlers or teams you may know or may have met, because not all Service Dogs are the same.
6.) My Service Dog Is Loved
Please don’t tell me you “feel sorry” for my Service Dog because she has to work all the time. She’s incredibly loved and she does in fact enjoy “time off” so she can just be a dog. She does get treats, she does get to play and sometimes, when she’s off duty, she enjoys getting the “zoomies” and running around in massive circles like she’s lost her connection to the mothership and she’s trying to re-establish the signal. She’s very well taken care of and she’s better off than most pet dogs because she’s well-adjusted, highly trained and well socialized.
7.) My Service Dog Is Medical Equipment
My Service Dog is medical equipment, just like a wheelchair, crutches or an oxygen tank. She is medically necessary and anywhere in public medical equipment is allowed, so is my Service Dog. Additionally, please treat her like medical equipment. You wouldn’t walk up to someone you didn’t know and just randomly start pushing their wheelchair or talk to a little old lady’s cane, so please don’t touch, talk to, pet or otherwise engage with my partner.
8.) My Service Dog Is Protected Under Law
United States federal law protects my Service Dog’s access rights. Federal law allows my Service Dog and I to go ANYWHERE in public people are allowed to frequent. There are no exceptions, and we don’t care if food is being made, it’s a hospital or you don’t want dogs in your business. Federal law gives my Service Dog COMPLETE access, and your opinion doesn’t matter. The only times my Service Dog could be excluded from any public place is if she’s not house-trained or is out of control and I’m not doing anything about it, and neither of those would EVER be an issue.
9.) There Is No Certification Required
There are no papers, documentation, ID, certification, or other required information of any kind for me to have my partner in public with me. Not only is there no documentation necessary, but it’s illegal for you to ask for any. If you’re a business owner and you’re not certain my partner is a Service Dog, then you may ONLY ask two questions: if my partner is a Service Dog, and what work my partner does for me. That’s all. You can’t ask for my private medical information, request “paperwork” or do anything except ask me those two questions.
10.) I’d Rather Not Have A Service Dog
Please don’t tell me you’d “like to have a Service Dog.” In order to have a Service Dog, you have to be disabled as defined by U.S. federal law. Every time you say, “I wish I had a Service Dog,” you’re saying, “I wish whatever is wrong with you was wrong with me, too!” Also, please don’t tell me you “wish your dog could go everywhere with you.” Again, that requires SO MUCH MORE than you think it does, not the least of which is thousands of hours of training and socialization. It’s not easy and while my partner is completely worth it, I’d rather not need her.
If Service Dogs were Wheelchairs:
(I accidentally put the link twice, and cannot delete it.)