To lean or not to lean? | Disability and Socialising

Gem with Drink in hand

I’m going to put this post out there, just so you can ponder this question yourself. There is no right answer but I know I have mine.

Picture the scene – you see me at a networking event, I raise my chair but I’m still lower than everyone there. We say hello but you can’t quite hear me. What do you do? Do you kneel down? Do you lean on my chair? Do you carry on and not quite hear me properly?

It’s a tricky one, and one that I experience a lot. So I thought I’d throw my opinion in there. And I must express this is just my opinion. Unfortunately there is not blanket right answer and shock horror, everyone is different. But for me personally I find when people kneel down it makes me feel like a child again.

You know the situation – you’re at school, you’re getting told off and the teacher doesn’t quite stand up but doesn’t quite kneel – they just get RIGHT in ya face just to scare you even more. So when someone kneels in front of me, I immediately want to #reverse. I especially want to do so if you just casually lean on my chair too. Because my chair is a part of me, so if we have just met and all of a sudden you’re grabbing mi chair and getting in my grill – it can be very personal. Imagine you’ve just met someone and they start holding your shoulder throughout the conversation – it would be a little uncomfortable wouldn’t it?

You may think… well just tell the person Gem? It’s quite difficult to tell someone you’ve just met to ‘oi get off’ without coming across as a right arse and of course there’s intention – we know that there is no bad intention there.

There’s also always that awkwardness of non-wheelchair users not fully being able to hover either. I don’t think I’ve ever met someone who can perfectly squat through a whole conversation. There’s a lot of bouncing and knee swapping. It’s awkward for everyone involved. Oh and guarantee someone will spill their drink on me mid lean. I sometimes end up not really fully concentrating and start thinking: Ooh ey up here they go, they’re going to fall… timber!!! Ok I’ll stop being cruel now.

So what’s the best way then Gem, I hear you question (I don’t but let’s pretend I do). One of the best ways I’ve found to combat this is to get a chair nearby and use that like you would with anyone else that is sat down. That way we’re on a similar level but it’s not intrusive.

If anyone reading this who has done this in the past – don’t worry this is not a subtle dig. I just think it’s good to think about these situations away from when it’s happening. And most of all – ask the person. They may be absolutely fine with it – but it’s much better to check in with them and ask if it’s ok to get to their level. That way you can get on with the great convo rather than doing a balancing act pretending you’re on the last round of total wipeout.

Have you experienced this in the past? Do people do this to you? What do you think? Send me your comments or contact me on Facebook or Twitter!

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