Teaching Wheelchair Assistance Etiquette to Peers and School Staff
Over the years, we have been blessed at Zeeland Christian School to welcome many students who use wheelchairs. Their presence in our classrooms, in our hallways, and on our playgrounds, has enriched the academic, social, and spiritual life of our school. As with any individual who requires supports at ZCS, we have taken some extra measures to make sure everyone is informed and equipped to include each student. For students who utilize wheelchairs, we’ve found the following tips helpful as we work with the individual, their peers, and the school staff to make this the best educational experience possible for all involved.
Get to know the individual.
Every person who uses a wheelchair will have a different protocol (and this protocol can change over time). Each person has different items they may need assistance with and items they do not. Seek the input of parents and the student.
Provide specific instructions.
Based on what you know from item #1 above, provide specific instructions each school year to the child who is the wheelchair user as well as the classmates.
Both sides get lessons.
The wheelchair user gets instructions about having a “driver’s license” that can get taken away if needed. They are to motor safely – and if possible – advocate for themselves when needing assistance.
Give specific instructions to peers.
It is a privilege to be able to be a “co-driver” at times, but any infraction loses them their license as well. If the “co-driver” takes one speedy push down a ramp, they no longer have a peer license.
Provide staff with instructions.
There are also times when staff need some instructions too. You may reach a time when you discover the student gets too distracted if they’re always greeted in the hallway. If this is the case, you may need to ask staff not to greet specific students.
While the child may benefit from motoring independently down the hall once per day, to do more than that might be too tiring. School is educational, and while we want to focus on some physical therapy goals, always promoting independence can take student’s energy away from their academic goals. There may need to be a balance between physical goals and academic goals with some students.
Passionate about inclusive education? Make a contribution to All Belong to help us create inclusive communities for persons of all abilities.
Barbara J. Newman is the director of church services at All Belong and the director of educational support services at Zeeland Christian School.