‘I was screaming for help but people looked away’


Photo shows Carrie-Ann, William and Ann, who spoke to the BBC about their experiences
The BBC spoke to Carrie-Ann Lightley, William Peace and Ann Webster about strangers trying to push their wheelchairs.

A tweet by a woman detailing how a stranger took control of her wheelchair has prompted other people to share similar stories and support.

In the tweet Bronwyn Berg recounts how passers-by didn’t intervene despite her “screaming for help”.

Twitter post by @BergBronwyn: If you see a person in a wheelchair (especially a woman) being pushed by someone and she’s screaming Stop! No! Help! For the love of humanity help her!A guy grabbed my wheelchair today and just started pushing me, not a single passerby helped even though I was screaming for helpMs Berg’s tweet has received a huge reaction online, garnering nearly 65,000 likes and 20,000 retweets, with many people expressing their outrage and offering words of support, including Baroness Tanni 
Twitter post by @Tanni_GT: That is awful. And scary.Ms Berg wrote on Twitter that she was “most upset that no one helped,” adding “the way people looked away when I was calling for help makes me feel a lot less safe in the world”.

Many wheelchair users identified with the “horrifying” tweet, and were moved to share their experiences.

Photo shows Carrie-Ann Lightley in a gardenTravel blogger Carrie-Ann Lightley says she has experienced similar behaviour

Carrie-Ann Lightley runs a blog about accessible tourism and is used to travelling alone. She wasn’t surprised when she read the tweet.

“I thought it was awful, but I’ve had similar experiences,” she told the BBC.

Carrie-Ann says it is “dangerous” and “scary” when complete strangers come up behind her and touch her wheelchair without permission.

Twitter post by @CarrieALightley: Happens to me a lot at Euston Station. Pushing myself up the long ramp from the platforms when assistance is delayed. I may *look* like I'm struggling but that's just how I push! People just grab my handles without asking/speaking to me.“It makes me feel like society doesn’t see me as an independent person, a young woman travelling, working and in a rush to get to places just like everyone else – they see me as someone who must be struggling.”

Some responded to Ms Berg’s tweet to suggest that, while their actions may be misguided, people might just be trying to help.

Carrie-Ann said that while “kindness makes the world a better place”, she suggested people “always ask me before touching me or my wheelchair.”

Twitter post by @ruth_murran: It happens to me often. When I bought my chair I was advised to pay extra for flip down handles because it's so common. They help, but don't deter everybody.


Ann Webster was on her way home from work one evening when a man approached her and said “here hold these”.

“He thrust some rolled up newspapers on my knee and started to push me.

“I kept saying no. I felt powerless.”

Ann remembers that while the stranger did eventually stop, he made it clear he thought Ann was “being horrible” for challenging his actions.

“It’s always been men who have attempted to push me,” Ann said, “and yes I do feel vulnerable.”

Ann has recently developed a technique to “get back in control”.

“By spinning my chair around to face the offender, it shocks them into letting go,” she said.

Twitter post by @wjpeace9: That has happened to me too. It is very dangerous. No idea what people are thinking when they do this. It is wildly wrong.

William Peace told the BBC that when he challenges people who try to push his wheelchair without permission he is often told to “shut up and accept help” and accused of being “bitter”.

When he read Ms Berg’s tweet, William said it made him think that “when people see a wheelchair that is exactly what they see – a wheelchair – not a human being”.

When asked why he thought passers-by didn’t step in to assist Ms Berg he suggested that harassment against those with disabilities is not taken seriously.

“I have been discriminated against my entire adult life and cannot think of any occasion when a typical bodied stranger offered to help,” he said.

“People with a disability are seen as ‘less than’, and often infantilised and assumed to be physically and mentally deficient.”

One Twitter user described how “terrifying” it is to be accosted from behind:

Twitter post by @clothosspindle: I’m sorry. I’ve had this happen to me also. It is terrifying to feel someone grab you from behind and not be able to see behind you.My wheelchair is an extension of my body. NO RANDOM GRABBING!Presentational white space

Ms Berg confirmed that, despite feeling “shaken up” by the experience, she was “okay”.


2 thoughts on “‘I was screaming for help but people looked away’

  1. Reblogged this on 61chrissterry and commented:
    Unfortunately many people are ignorant of issues around disability, as they see the disability, but not the person.

    They believe they are caring, but have no understanding of how care should be offered.

    No one should assume that care is required, without contacting the person concerned. Just because a person has a disability does not mean their feelings and other senses are disabled also.

    Everybody, no matter who they are wish to retain their own independence and therefore everyone should be respectful of others.

    Before you act, think and consider how to proceed for no one should touch another without the expressed permission of that persons. This is also extended to any aids or adaptions that the person may have.

    It is assault to make contact with a person without their permission and the act of touching a persons wheelchair or anyother items of theirs is also assault, which is deemed a criminal act or should be.

    Do not ignore people, but treat them as you yourself would wish to be treated, for you do not know the person like they know themselves.

    The act of touching is further compounded when they are telling you not to do what you you have done without their expressed permission.

    They are not in the wrong, you are.

    Ignorance is never any excuse.


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