As a Wheelchair User, What Do I Do If I’m Pulled Over?
No interaction with law enforcement can every be considered “routine” or “ordinary”, especially when you’re a wheelchair user. I’m going to give what little advice I can based on my experiences with police officers during traffic stops and after car accidents. As always, please remember that I am not a lawyer and that your experience may vary wildly, based on a number of factors.
Always Keep Your Hands Visible
Keep your hands clearly visible at all times. If you have a tendency to talk with your hands when you’re nervous, grip the steering wheel.
Communicate as Clearly As Possible
When the officer asks for your identification or registration, clearly explain where in the vehicle it is located and then ask if it’s okay if you retrieve it. When you do retrieve it, move smoothly and deliberately.
Alert the Officer of Your Mobility Aid
If the officer asks you to exit the vehicle, let them know about your wheelchair or other mobility aid and that you will need access to it in order to obey their instructions. If they don’t request you exit the vehicle or do anything that requires you to access your mobility aid, don’t mention it.
Be Overly Polite
You’re gonna be nervous, and maybe a little irritated; that’s understandable. Try and remain as polite as possible. I’ve had more than my share of police officers tell me how amazed they were at my hand controls or how they “totally understand” what it’s like to use a wheelchair because they were stuck in one after they broke their foot. Every time it happens, I just go with it. I listen to their stories or explain the controls. It’s awkward, but it beats any number of alternatives.