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When Speaking With a Wheelchair User, Is it Appropriate to Kneel or Bend Down to Speak at Eye Level?

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Editor's Note: The following question and answer was curated from a webinar titled "Disability Awareness and Etiquette." Questions were asked by attendees, and the answers were provided by an Accessibility Consultant at Level Access who is blind. Her answers are based on personal preference and are to be considered as only suggestions.

 

Q: When speaking with a wheelchair user, is it ever appropriate to kneel so we are speaking at eye-to-eye level or maintain your current position. Do you simply ask?

A: It’s fine to maintain your standing position, you don’t need to kneel to talk to a person. You can also communicate with that person and say “are we communicating okay? Are you able to understand me? Do you feel that I am communicating effectively, or should I kneel or sit down next to you?” I have two very best friends who are wheelchair users, and they prefer that I remain standing or pull up a chair and sit next to them when we’re sitting and talking, but it doesn’t really matter to them. I would say it’s fine to maintain a standing position, just look to the person and don't feel that you must kneel, but you can always get on their level by grabbing a chair or just asking them “hey will it be more effective if I get on your level by sitting down next to you or are we good the way that we are?” they will communicate that to you.

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