13. Canes, Seeing-Eye Dogs, and Wheelchairs


If one is partially disabled and needs a cane to walk, he may walk in a reshut ha-rabim with a cane because the cane has the same status as his shoes – indispensable for walking. However, if he can walk without a cane, even if only with great difficulty, he may not enter a reshut ha-rabim with a cane (SA 301:17).

A blind person, who normally uses a white cane to help him get around, may not use it on Shabbat if he can manage without it; in such a case, the cane is considered a burden and may not be used where there is no eruv (SA 301:18). If he cannot manage without it, for example, if he needs to navigate an unfamiliar neighborhood, he may go out with his cane (AHS 301:72).[14]

A blind person may enter the public domain with a seeing-eye dog. Even though he is holding onto the harness attached to the dog, this is not prohibited. Since the harness is always attached to the dog, it is secondary to its body, and there is no problem of carrying (Igrot Moshe, OĤ 1:45; Menuĥat Ahava 3:27:49; see SSK ch. 18 n. 62 and above 20:2).

One who is wheelchair-bound and propels the wheelchair manually may go out in the public domain with the wheelchair, as the wheelchair is considered comparable to his shoes (SA 30:16-17; Igrot Moshe, OĤ 4:90). However, if the disabled person is unable to propel himself, he may not be pushed, just as a baby who cannot walk may not be carried in the public domain or a karmelit (MB 308:153). For the sake of a mitzva, though, a non-Jew may be asked to push someone in a wheelchair. This is classified as a shvut di-shvut, which is permissible for a great need and for the sake of a mitzva (above 9:11).[15]

[14]. Nowadays the blind are taught to use a white cane, and so they feel unable to manage without one even in familiar areas. Thus it may be permissible for them to enter a reshut ha-rabim with a cane even in a familiar area.

[15]. Some question the permissibility of a disabled person propelling himself in a wheelchair on Shabbat (Har Tzvi, OĤ 1:170; SSK 34:27). The concern is that even if the disabled person is able to propel the wheelchair himself, it might still not be considered secondary to him. However, the primary position is the lenient one. See Yalkut Yosef 301:56; Piskei Teshuva 301:9.

Many maintain that one may only ask a non-Jew to push a disabled person in a wheelchair in a karmelit, because, according to them, the chair is not secondary to the person, and thus pushing it is prohibited by Torah law. Thus in a reshut ha-rabim there is only one shvut involved (Ĥelkat Yaakov 1:66; Minĥat Yitzhak 2:114:6; Nishmat Avraham 301:16, n. 1). Nevertheless, there is room to say that a disabled person’s wheelchair is secondary to him. Accordingly, since “a living being carries itself,” moving him is only rabbinically prohibited. This case is comparable to that of a bedridden person, about whom the Talmud states that carrying him in a reshut ha-rabim is only rabbinically prohibited (Shabbat 93b). Thus, one may ask a non-Jew to push the disabled person even in a reshut ha-rabim. This is the position of Rabbi Peretz (Otzar Piskei Eruvin §38). It can also be argued that the status of the disabled is similar to that of the ill, for whom the Sages permitted transgressing the rabbinic prohibition of having melakha performed by a non-Jew.

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