This is a post I wrote today for Guns, Gams and Gumshoes, a website I and my better-half started in 2009 for private investigators, researchers and writers developing sleuth/P.I. characters and stories. Over the years, both of us have written articles about everything from protecting one’s information on the Internet to our favorite private eye characters in movies and books.

But this article is different. I felt strongly I needed to address an uneducated comment made about one of our siblings who must use a wheelchair full time.

Let’s Better Understand What It’s Like for People in Wheelchairs

by Colorado Defense Attorney Shaun Kaufman

One of the Guns, Gams and Gumshoes’s sisters is a full-time wheelchair user. Recently, when her wheelchair began working improperly, and she feared she might fall from her chair, she called 911 for help. Firefighters arrived, cut the power to her chair, and lifted her into a backup wheelchair. Someone we know thought this was a mis-use of 911 services, and said the wheelchair user should only have called if it had been a “life or death” emergency.

I found this statement to be ignorant and condescending as the guideline for making a 911 call is if someone is in imminent danger of injury as well as danger of death — for a wheelchair user afraid that he/she might be falling out of their chair, it is indeed a situation of imminent danger that can cause injury, and in fact death, as the majority of wheelchair fatalities are the result of the person falling or tilting from the chair. Look, the bottom line for emergency medical intervention is to ameliorate the potential severity of injury.

Falling/Tipping from a Wheelchair: The Most Common Cause of Death

The U.S. National Library of Medicine conducted research of the death certificate database of the National Information Clearinghouse of the Consumer Product Safety Commission over a 15-year period, and identified 770 wheelchair-related deaths. The majority of those deaths, 596 persons or 77.4 %, died as a result from falling from their chairs or tipping over while in them.

Understanding the World of Those Who Use Wheelchairs

Most of us are uncomfortable to some extent with things we don’t know or understand. One of those things might be people who use wheelchairs, and may result in our saying something thoughtless without meaning to. Below are a few articles to aid understanding of those in wheelchairs:

10 Things To Never Say To A Person In A Wheelchair (via HuffPost)

Non Wheelchair User Etiquette (via Apparelyzed)

How to Interact with a Person Who Uses a Wheelchair (via WikiHow)

Save the Wheelchair (a fundraising campaign for the Roll on Capitol Hill)

Thank you, Shaun

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Managing Partner at Shaun Kaufman Law
Shaun Kaufman has 30 years of in-court experience, with hundreds of hours spent defending numerous high-profile cases including homicide, white-collar theft and RICO offenses. Specialties: Criminal defense, personal injury, business litigation, DUI.

Shaun Kaufman Law: 303-309-0430
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