Young woman at amusement park using their phones

Oblivious young people need to look up from their phones more often to see where they are walking, or they may find themselves flipped over someone’s powerchair.

I’ve had it with people so engrossed with their phones that they almost bang into me! This behavior is dangerous and is also just plain rude.

I am a quadriplegic and use a motorized wheelchair. I live in an urban community in Arlington, Virginia, where I have the ability to independently navigate the streets, sidewalks and subway platforms. Lately, the traditional barriers of stairs or out-of-service elevators have been replaced by men and women of all ages who don’t look up from their phones.

Just yesterday, I was driving my wheelchair in my neighborhood and a gentleman was coming toward me, looking at his phone and weaving as he walked. I moved as far as possible to the side of the sidewalk to avoid him, but it was impossible because he wasn’t walking in a straight line. I thought for sure he would smack right into me.

I could envision the scene in my head: he would likely fall over and potentially be injured, another pedestrian would stop, and there would be a whole to-do over how the situation occurred and who would be blamed.

As this scenario played out in my head, I yelled “sir!” to no avail. After multiple yells he didn’t even look up, so I bellowed — which, for me, is not that loud because I have a trach — “watch where you are walking or you are going to get run over!” He looked up, but did not stop, went back to his phone and was quickly oblivious once again to everything around him.

I took a minute to calm down and then finished running my errands. As I said, he was oblivious to the entire scene … but I was not and continue to deal with the danger caused by people who won’t look up from their mobile devices.

Washington, D.C.’s Metro subway system’s platforms have proven to be similarly, if not more, dangerous and frustrating. You would think that people would be careful given that one side of the platform drops about five feet to the track bed. I can’t even imagine why people are so fixated on their phone and not watching where they are going!

Metro platforms, of course, have a tendency to be crowded and what makes it even worse is that many commuters have earbuds in listening to music and/or books and they cannot hear me — so yelling doesn’t usually get any response. I have resorted to wheeling up and gently tapping them with my elbow (my movement is very limited) where I can reach them to get their attention.

No surprise, they usually start a bit, move a little, never take the earbuds out, and rarely apologize or say, “Excuse me.”

So I ask that everybody exercise common courtesy. Watch where you are walking and look around. Be aware of your surroundings. It might not be a wheelchair user, but someone who is actually trying to steal something, take your phone (gasp!) or otherwise cause harm to you or others.

I can’t imagine anyone or anything is so important that you have to text as you walk. If you need to text, move over to the side of the sidewalk or the Metro platform and take care of whatever it is. And if you do so, it might be an opportunity to take a deep breath, look up and relax for a few seconds!

Follow the adventures of Sheri Denkensohn-Trott and her husband Tony Trott on