Blindness and Mobility Device Etiquette

Originally published in The Braille Form, June 2011

American Council of the Blind logoOver the years, I have discovered that more and more [American Council of the Blind] members have multiple disabilities including physical, psychiatric, intellectual and hearing loss. These additional disabilities are a natural part of life; they occur due to illnesses and accidents. Our military veterans have incurred multiple disabilities through their war action. Yet, my experience is that unless you are a spouse or family member, some of our peers who are blind seem unaware and intolerant of our needs to use mobility devices. I am writing specifically about the needs of those of us who have physical disabilities and use mobility devices such as walkers, wheelchairs, and scooters, and how people who are just blind can better understand and help us.

You may think we are unaware of how much space our devices take up and that we don’t consider your needs to move freely without running into them. My experience is that those of us who use mobility devices are especially conscientious about looking for walls, ends of rows, alcoves in backs of rooms and other out-of-the-way places to park our devices. We have learned to do this as we have become aware of the conflicts our devices seem to cause for people who cannot see. In fact, since we also cannot see, we experience the same conflicts. But regardless of whether people use mobility devices, we all use the entire space in rooms. We all have equal rights to equal access. [read more]