There are all kinds of ways to be polite and we're taught them from an early age. Say thanks, ask nicely, chew with your mouth closed. Most of them are personal ways that we mind our manners. Some go beyond that, like asking about someone's day or holding a door open for them.
Seeing someone approaching a closed door with their arms full of groceries for example, it would be perfectly polite to hold the door open for them.
It's perhaps this kind of thinking that leads to people grabbing wheelchairs of perfect strangers and pushing them up ramps, through crowded streets, or just down sidewalks. There's a problem however.
If you're not asked for help, you pushing a random person in a wheelchair, is actually terrifying for them.
Imagine you are minding your own business when someone comes up behind you and grabs you. They lift you up and start running with you. How do you feel?
Brownwyn Berg recently tweeted about a scary experience in her hometown of Nanaimo.
If you see a person in a wheelchair (especially a woman) being pushed by someone and she’s screaming Stop! No! Help! For the love of humanity help her!— Bronwyn Berg (@BergBronwyn) January 13, 2019
A guy grabbed my wheelchair today and just started pushing me, not a single passerby helped even though I was screaming for help
Berg says someone came up behind her and started pushing while she was out shopping. She screamed for him to stop, but he didn't listen. To make matters worse, no one helped her.
She says this isn't a one-off occurence either.
"This isn't the first time this has happened. They think they're helping? It's scary and also dangerous. He could've broken my fingers in my spokes," she responded to one person on Twitter.
While many times cases such as these might be borne from a desire to help, it's important to note that Berg never asked for help. People living with disabilities do not want to be pitied. Yes, like any of us, sometimes they require help and like any of us, when they need help they will ask for it. We don't get to decide when they need help.
Happens to me a lot at Euston Station. Pushing myself up the long ramp from the platforms when assistance is delayed. I may *look* like I'm struggling but that's just how I push! People just grab my handles without asking/speaking to me.— Carrie-Ann Lightley (@CarrieALightley) January 13, 2019
To make matters worse for Berg, this isn't the first time she was victimized by someone.
The whole reason I’m in a wheelchair is because a man picked me up without consent and dropped me on my head. I was left with a severe brain injury, seizures and no ability to balance.— Bronwyn Berg (@BergBronwyn) January 14, 2019
People from around the world replied on Berg's original Tweet, sharing similar stories and voicing their outrage. It seems the phenomenon of grabbing people in wheelchairs and pushing them is global.
I’m sorry. I’ve had this happen to me also. It is terrifying to feel someone grab you from behind and not be able to see behind you.— Clotho ☕️☕️♿️☮️ (@clothosspindle) January 13, 2019
My wheelchair is an extension of my body. NO RANDOM GRABBING!
In just a few weeks the tweet has been liked almost 70K times and has been retweeted nearly 20K. Thankfully Berg made it home safe and sound to share her story.