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Is patting someone on the head rude?

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I read an interesting article* by a disability advocate about how often complete strangers seem to think it's okay to pat her on the head simply because she has a disability (she uses a wheel chair). The author felt the gesture was condescending. She wrote about how she usually feels too humiliated in the moment to say something to the person doing the head patting.

To me, patting a stranger or even someone you've only just met on the head would be rude.
Some of the comments on the article agreed it was inappropriate. A few thought it was part of the culture (apparently we're a touchy-feely bunch in Australia - news to me).

Anyway, was curious about whether Ehellions believe patting someone on the head is okay and, if so, under what circumstances.

*haven't included the article link because I'm trying to avoid the politics (article was prompted by a politician's actions).

I think the only time it would not be rude to pat someone on the head, is if it were a very small child in your care or with whom you have an affectionate relationship, or a grown person you are very closely related with (in a jokey way) - spouse, parent, sibling.  Of course you have to temper that with their feedback and if they don't like it you should not do it again.

Touching strangers in a non-emergency - always rude.  Treating disabled people the way you would treat a child - extremely rude.

Definitely rude, with (in my opinion, anyway) a side of condescending. I didn't even like being patted on the head when I was a child, and the ONLY person who can get away with it now, even in a jokey way, is my DH.

People do this to me sometimes, and it drives me up the wall. I think it's because I'm short and 'cute'. I have had to tell people not to do this on more than one occasion.

I would never pat someone on the head.  I agree it is rude and condescending.  I might give a pat on the shoulder but otherwise I try to not touch people at all, as some people really dislike being touched, even harmlessly.  I avoid it where I can unless it's a hug (in which case it would be someone I know well enough to know they are okay with it) or perhaps a handshake, which is (I believe) a commonly accepted social and professional gesture.


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