A Manual Wheelchair User’s Guide to Clubs and Other Crowded Spaces

Published: Apr 26, 2019

Crowds are complicated when you’re a manual wheelchair user. This guide should help you navigate them more easily and help you enjoy whatever event you happen to be at.

Do Some Recon When You Arrive

Before going directly into a crowd, do a little surveillance and study the standing‐folk in the room. Figure out spaces people are trying to move through and what spaces folks have decided it’s okay to stand around in. Move into the stationary spaces and then look for an opening in the more active ones as need (e.g., the bar).

Remember That You’re Invisible

Able‐bodied folk cannot see you in a crowded space. The last thing they do is look straight down when they move and you’re always going to be directly out of their line of site. When you are in a crowded space, you’re going to need to pay extra attention to the people directly in front of you to make sure they don’t run into you.

This goes double for areas where people are trying to leave. For example, getting a drink at the bar or leaving a conversation. Folks have a tendency to do this move where they take two steps backwards while still looking at the person they’re talking to and then turning to leave. If you’re not careful, they’re likely to crash into you because you’re not in their field of view when they turn around.

Know How to Order a Drink

When you get to the bar, sit up as straight as you can and get your hand in the air. If possible, reach out and grip the bar surface itself while keeping your gripping arm extended. This will keep people from stepping in front of you while you try to get the bartenders attention and keep you far enough away that you’ll be visible when they look over the crowd.

Order all of your drinks in a rocks glass. Ordering a drink “up” (in a martini glass) makes it fucking impossible to carry.

Don’t Carry Too Much

Only carry what you need. Keep shit off the back of your chair where you can’t see it. Money wise, you need a couple of 20s, a credit card, and your ID. That shit fits easily in a front pocket or small clutch (which you can keep between or under one of your legs.

If you do need to carry medical supplies (like catheters), stick them under your seat cushion.

If you do decided to carry a bag, make sure it’s one you can wear on your body. That way, if somebody fucks with it, you’ll have a better chance of detecting it.

Know When Take a Break

Don’t be afraid to be a wallflower. If things get too intense or you need to get out of the crowd, the outer edge is going to be your best bet. Make sure you have a solid plan for getting out and getting home safely (e.g., call an Uber).