Why do people stare???

I have just come back from a 2 week Med cruise and it was the first time I have used a wheelchair in public. OMG - what is WRONG with people?? I was looking forward to having a bit of freedom, being able to go on an excursion or two without the pain and stiffness and I was really looking forward to seeing my husband enjoy a bit of freedom too (even though he did have to push me lol!) The freedom from pain was nice but I was imprisoned in a different way by people’s attitude. Seriously, even in as amazing and wondrous a place as Herculaneum in Italy, even there I got looks and stares. In fact so badly that on one occasion when some daft woman and her whole family walked past gawping I said out loud ‘amazing!! Here we are surrounded by incredible Roman ruins including mosaic floors and virtually intact buildings but the real attraction seems to be me, the woman in the wheelchair!!’ I have to say by the end of the trip I was worn out by it all and made a point of getting in and out of the chair as often as I could. I am lucky that I can do that (now, not sure about the future) by my God it was an eye opener. Some philosopher said ‘hell is other people’ …and he definitely had a point! Rant over people lol!


why do people stare?

because we are the most interesting to look at within their vicinity! you cant change other people but you can change how you view them-by ignoring them! (i dont say that lightly but from learning through experiences!)

hope you feel better after your rant cos the folk who stared havent given you another thought!

ellie (who has used a wheelchair for several years!)



Are you sure they’re staring at you? Is there any degree of you feeling self conscious?

I’m saying this as a full time wheelchair user. When I started to use a wheelchair I thought people were staring at me. I don’t see it anymore. They may always have been staring and I’ve not noticed. Or don’t notice anymore.

I know there are times when I feel utterly patronised by the able bodied who smile at me. It’s a bit like: ‘look at the poor soul in the ‘chair, I wonder what’s wrong with her?’

But eventually you get used to both types of people. Basically a wheelchair enables you to do things and go places that otherwise you’d not manage.

The trick is to be able to ignore either type, think ‘Fog them’ (or words like that!) Enjoy being able to travel, to see amazing sights. See all the places you can while you’re able to do a bit of walking.



Hello Juniper. I find that when I get on a bus in my chair, everyone stares. I shout a hearty greeting. I greet everyone in the street. If someone persists on gawping I offer to do a trick. I wear a big hat, sun glasses and have a long goatee beard. Engaging people is one way but it can be tiring. Just think of your freedom. If people stare it’s their problem for being narrow minded. Best wishes and happy rolling.


I tend to agree with Sssue, a slight degree of self conscious perhaps. Myself and wife recently went on holiday to Mexico, and I bloody struggled, in insight it was daft to go, but hey you only live once. Anyway, it was the first time that I really needed to use a stick, and I thought every person that I passed was staring at me , it got so bad that I started to stare at people wanting them to look so that I could say something to them. It was ridiculous, because the reality was no-one took a blind bit of notice. Maybe as it was my first time with a stick I wanted someone to stare, so that I could vent my frustration at them, I dont know ? But for the first few days it really spoilt our holiday, not people staring, me just being over conscious.

1 Like

Hi JuniperL,

What a really lovely holiday you’d planned, using a wheelchair so you could get the most out of it, and for your husband to get some exercise pushing you!

Sadly the shame is that you thought people were staring at you and this has marred the whole holiday. I know you’ve just come on here for a rant, which I do understand.

I’ve just been on holiday abroad with my chair, yes people stare, it’s natural, people look in prams and pushchairs too. If someone stares I just gave a cheery, hello, thank you, etc. Turn a negative into a positive. If I didn’t use my chair I wouldn’t be able to go out so I few people staring doesn’t bother me, don’t want to waste energy on negative thoughts!

Hope your only rant is on here, that’s allowed, we have all been their and understand. Please, when you’re telling all your friends and family only tell them the good times you had , that’s happy memories.



Hi As others have suggested I think there can be a degree of self consciousness. It’s quite normal for able bodied people to make eye contact with someone when walking past them. People often say hello to me as they pass, and I like that. It’s nice to be friendly. Usually when I get on public transport, people are too immersed in their phones to notice. If they do watch me wheel into the space, it’s just because humans are hardwired to notice movement and change. In general though, the only people who ever stare are children, because I’m a novelty. Occasionally I’ll overhear them say to their parent why is that man in a pushchair, which makes me smile. I’m always tempted to say it’s so I can scrounge benefits :slight_smile: Dan


I find it’s children that do the staring. Toddlers in their push chairs look in fascination at my “super wheels” and I think I detect wheel envy. Older children have come right up to me and asked me directly why I’m in the wheelchair. Parents are embarrassed and apologise on their behalf. I always wave that away and respond to the child, explaining that my legs don’t work very well and the chair helps me get around. It’s easy to understand the thinking. I have two legs therefore I must be able to walk surely…? I don’t notice if people are staring. Wouldn’t bother me if they are.


I was about to rant on about a related issue but then had 2nd thoughts. My bugbear was that everyone below the waist height of your average bi-pedal “normal” human is invisible. I visited a county show using my Tramper (Largish scooter) and rather than being stared at, it seemed to be the preferred choice to walk in front of my wheels or even to step backwards into my path. I had a similar experience at the Stafford bike show and my mates started shouting “chippy crip coming through” ! Not very PC but about the only way to let the bi-peds know that I was there. I do NOT expect the world to revolve around me but it does not require massive effort to use you eyes , be aware of your surroundings and have a little consideration for others. My 2nd thought is that we are all pretty much focussed on ourselves (me included obviously) and rarely think beyond what we want or are doing (starers included here) so my plea is for all of us to be just a tiny bit more considerate. I will start by trying not to mutter at people or things that make my life a little harder and by smiling a bit more.

That is quite enough from me


1 Like

I’ve been in a wheelchair for 10 years now and when I first started using it I too thought I was getting stared at by everyone but really I think it was just that I felt uncomfortable being seen in a wheelchair. Of course some people do look for a longer length of time than they should but I just smile and say hello and they usually smile back and look away. I find that if you are pleasant and chat to people they see you as a person and realise that even if you are in a wheelchair you can still talk and take part in conversations.

1 Like

I’d be surprised if your Tramper doesn’t have some kind of horn. If it doesn’t, you can get bicycle horns at Halfords - I have one on my rollator. It’s very useful if people are in the way and won’t move. Most people don’t mind being hooted at, often they smile and apologize.