How Do I Stop People From Pushing My Wheelchair Without Permission?

Jan 26, 2019

Anonymous asks, quote:

How do I stop abled people from pushing my manual wheelchair? I can’t remove the handlebars.

end quote.

The two main tactics I use to avoid people touching my chair are: be aware of my surroundings and move with confidence. Unfortunately, that doesn’t always work. Despite my best efforts and the fact that my chair does not have handlebars, people still try to push me. And when that happens, my tactics for dissuading someone get much more…direct.

Stop the Chair

When someone grabs your handlebars without asking, the first thing you need to focus on is stopping the chair. Lean as far forward as you can, grip rim and wheel at the lowest possible point and pull back hard. Your goal here is two‐fold: stop the chair from moving and throw the person pushing you off balance.

An important detail about stopping the chair: when you pull on the tires, keep your body as low as possible. Don’t lean backwards into the pulling motion or you might end up tipping yourself over. This also has the added benefit of protecting your head and neck if the person pushing you ends up tripping forward over your chair.

Get Clear

Once the chair has stopped moving, immediately turn the chair hard to the left or the right. Your goal is to get away from and slightly behind the person who is pushing you. Your movements here should be sudden and explosive: do not slowly turn away.

Get Loud

When you’ve gained some distance between you and the other person, you should very loudly and clearly say “Don’t touch me!”. Not, “Please don’t push my chair”; not “What are you doing?”. “Don’t touch me” is a very short, very clear phrase that will immediately get the attention of people around you. No one wants to be touched without permission—wheelchair or not.

That being said, this tactic may not be best for everyone. I’m a cisgendered white dude. I have a lot of privilege and leeway when it comes to acting aggressive in public. You may be in a situation where raising your voice in anger may make the situation more dangerous than it already is. If that’s the case, I would feign ignorance with something like “Oh! I’m sorry! I felt someone grabbing the back of my chair and thought I was being abducted!” It’s not as powerful as shouting, but it should trigger the same amount of embarrassment in your assailant.

Get Away

Don’t wait for a response. Use the adrenaline in your system to move away as quickly as possible. Stay aware of your surroundings and get to where there is a large group of people.