Activism / Parkinson's

Is Freecycle unfair to the disabled?

Gloria on wheelchair

I believe in Freecycle

It’s a good way of circulating items you no longer need, and also getting stuff others find surplus to requirements. I’ve given away a number of things, like a MIDI keyboard for a young person developing their study of music. You can access the system HERE.

Now Gloria, my wife, has Parkinson’s, and she needs an electric wheelchair to maintain her independence. It struck me that there might be someone – perhaps, sadly, because a previous user was deceased – with one going spare, before we spent out something like a grand to enable her to get up the hill to the bus stop, collect prescriptions, go shopping etc.

So I posted a request.

The response of the Freecycle moderators was totally unexpected:


{no reason given}

Group file 28791 was also sent
You have now had 2 or more consecutive posts rejected for not complying with this groups posting rules. Any further consecutive post rejections will result in you being removed as a member of this group.

*** IMPORTANT *** This will be the only notice about this action. If you are removed from the group we WILL NOT mail you again to say it will or has happened.

This course of action was explained in the new member information email you received when your application to join the group was approved…

I responded:

What reason? Are you penalizing the disabled? if so you should be ashamed.

They replied:

We apply our rules equally and without prejudice to all of our members,
regardless of race, gender or any form of disability.

Your post, like the 2 others that you have submitted to this group
recently, was rejected because it did not comply with our posting rules
that is the only reason posts are not approved for display.

A copy of these rules is displayed on our group homepage entitled
posting rules, A further copy is automatically sent whenever a post is
not approved for display.

The points I would make about this sorry affair is this:

  • If any post is rejected, a specific reason should be given, rather than a generalised reference to the rules and regs.
  • It is all very well applying the rules “regardless of race, gender or any form of disability”, but in the case of the latter then surely an extra level of sympathy and understanding is required.

Well, Freecycle don’t need to remove me. I have removed myself. There are other similar sites that apply their rules with more appreciation of the difficulties some users may experience in using their facilities.

I’ve got quite a lot of items I was intending to offer Freecycle members. I’ll probably be giving them to local charity shops.

If you would like to express your views to the Freecycle moderators about their action in this matter, you can reach them at


4 thoughts on “Is Freecycle unfair to the disabled?

  1. I don’t know anything about Freecycle but their action does seem excessively heavy-handed and I agree that they should have provided specific reasons for the rejection. Perhaps blogging might provide a route with a more sympathetic approach to recycling to people in need. When my mother died a couple of years ago her disability scooter was given to someone who would benefit from it; the family didn’t feel they wanted to benefit by selling it and I’m sure there are many other families who would feel the same way. Maybe a charity which remains that rather than being a massive business empire, as so many now are, could consider setting up such a blog. Maybe CHAS in Bradford – which does and excellent job – could think about it alongside their sales of donated items. I’m sure if such a blog was promoted well it would quickly attract a lot of followers, both to give and to receive.


  2. That is really a sad state for a Freecycle group. I would expect a decent explanation. If you don’t know what is wrong how are you supposed to know what is right. If it isn’t obvious, I am a group owner/moderator. My list of guidelines is rather long to because it has it talks alot about what is good, not just what you can’t do.

    Taking a blind guess here but did you mention your wife is disabled and give any details? That is a real no-no in my group. Not that I am against the disabled. I don’t accept details from any member that can put them at risk. Lets say she is disabled and needs to get here or there. Not all people are good. You don’t want an undesirable person to know too much. While local groups like to be your neighbors, think of what you have written and how it would look on the front page of your biggest newspaper. For example, you don’t want your phone number there.

    The other guess I will make…my group has a rule of no sob stories. Again, this is in your best interest for safety as well as avoiding backlash. If you say my wife is disabled (and give any details) and we really really need an electric wheelchair and we can’t afford it because we are broke and this and then that….not only have you set yourself up (get a call from a salesperson who will offer you a deal you can’t pass up. Just wire me the cash) you probably have ticked people off in the group who will never consider you in the future.
    Request that I would allow:
    WANTED: Electric wheelchair
    Know it’s a long shot but does anyone have an electric wheelchair gathering dust? Hoping someone out there upgraded to something fancy or no longer needs it.

    Allowed by a stricter group:
    WANTED: Electric wheelchair
    Looking for a working electric wheelchair

    And yet an even stricter group would say no electric wheelchairs as they exceed the $500 max value. Some groups have a rule just to keep people in line. There are people that ask for cars, an engagement ring, house burnt down and we need everything. And my favorite that was just rejected.
    Wanted: Black leather couch suite
    Looking to remodel and need a 5 piece black suite consisting of leather couch, loveseat, 2 chairs and a foot rest. Must be a modern style without any scratches or damage. Please provide photo.


  3. I think Amy probably has it right, cos I did say my wife is disabled. But like I say, why couldn’t they be more specific, rather than referring me to the unreadable guidelines?


  4. Wow, that IS draconian!
    I am one of the moderators of a Freegle group, and by comparison, if you’d posted that to my group, I would simply have edited the message, to remove ‘disabled’ and tagged the message at the bottom to say I had edited it to comply with group guidelines. I do not see this as being unfair to disabled, particularly – I edit out pleas of being a single parent, made redundant, on a pension, etc, too.
    The idea behind this guideline is that Wanted messages are simply to ask if someone might have what you are looking for, rather than to plead one’s case to be given something.
    I only remove members if they are abusive to another member. I have 3 rules – everything must be free, legal, and treat others with good manners – everything else is a guideline that can be dealt with gently.
    I hope you managed to source a wheelchair – if not, try one of the local charities like the Lions – they can be very generous.


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