Wheelchair Etiquette: Doorways and Elevators

This article contains a video
a woman smiling
Curated by
Kristen Sachs
Content via Shepherd Center
Shepherd Center
Curated by
Kristen Sachs

Almost everyone has encountered this situation: someone is walking out a doorway while a wheelchair user is trying to enter the doorway at the same time. What do you do? Here is a fun video on “proper etiquette when encountering a wheelchair user, [to show] the right way to assist, if needed, in holding doors and elevator entries.”


“If someone in a wheelchair holds the door for you, let them!” explains the narrator. But sometimes this scenario isn’t as easily accomplished as it sounds. Oftentimes, the individual walking out the doorway will try to hold the door themselves, and inadvertently wind up in the path of the wheelchair user. If a wheelchair user holds the door, the best thing to do is walk out the door, then walk behind the person in the wheelchair and grab the door as he or she begins wheeling through it. That way the entry path isn’t blocked, and there’s no risk of toes being run over!


What about that awkward exchange when an elevator door opens and a wheelchair user is trying to enter while another person is trying to exit. “Elevators are already confined spaces,” says the narrator. For the individual exiting, don’t make things worse by either retreating back into the elevator, or holding the door while still in the elevator forming an “arm bridge” that is difficult for a wheelchair user to navigate. Instead, exit the elevator first, then reach back and hold the door if necessary.

In the end, no matter the situation, it’s important to remember this rule: “If you don’t know how to help, just ask!” Communication goes a long way to help diffuse these awkward situations.

Share this video with everyone to help make those doorway and elevator encounters go a little more smoothly!

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