Can-Do-Ability: Answers and Solutions from my personal experiences of living with a disability

People Need To Know, When To Offer Assistance, And When To Back Off

24 Feb 2012A few weeks ago, while doing my day-to-day thing, I had a bit of a brain snap and got frustrated with the able bodied world. The cause was from a series of offers of assistance, for things that I do on my own, quite capably, every day of my life.

It all began when I got to work and was getting up the gutter (with my block-o-wood invention to help me out), and a man asked if I needed help, I told him that I was fine on my own and that I needed practice to get the hang of my new discovery, and he was polite and walked on by with a smile and a wave.

The next incident was when I was putting my plank of wood back into my car and getting out my handbag from the passenger side door, and a woman, who works on the same street as me, asked if I needed help, I told her that I was fine, but she continued to walk towards me as if she didn’t believe that I could handle it myself, I assured her that I was just getting my bag out of my car, and didn’t need any assistance at all, she kind of watched me and once she was sure that I was ok, walked off.

A little bit later on in the day, I had to duck down to the post office, and I was the only one in my office, so had to lock up before I left. I was locking the door, and a lady came rushing towards me asking if I needed help opening the door, I told her that I was just locking it and that I was fine, so she walked off. Only a couple of hundred metres down the road, we ended up crossing the road together. I was halfway across and saw a car turning into the street from my left, so waited in the middle of the road until the car turned, just in case they didn’t see me. While I was waiting, the same lady came up to me and asked if I was ok and if I needed help to cross the road. A little bit frustrated, but trying to stay polite, I let her know that I was waiting to see what the car turning into the street was doing, before I was going to continue crossing the road. We both eventually crossed and parted ways.

That day, I also got offered help to get back into my office once I returned, which I tried to refuse, but ended up accepting, because the person offering wouldn’t take no for an answer.

Throughout this whole day filled with encounters of overly helpful people, I tried to remain smiley and polite, because that’s just the kind of person I am, but inside, my blood was beginning to boil. Not because I didn’t appreciate these strangers kind gestures, but because, their continuous offerings of assistance was insulting in a way to me.

You see, when I look at myself in the mirror, I don’t ‘feel’ disabled, or like I need help, unless I get a glimpse of my wheelchair, but even then, it is just me, so doesn’t really mean much to me. But when someone or a group of people constantly offer assistance, it makes me realise how different I look to the outside world, and how much able bodied people must look at me with sad, helpless eyes…

I attempted to vent my thoughts and feelings with my friends and family that day, but mostly kept getting told that I should just be grateful that there are helpful people still in the world. And I am! I’m so glad that people aren’t so cynical that they don’t care at all, but to me, these constant offerings of help just highlight the fact that there still isn’t enough disability awareness.

I began to feel as though my thoughts of annoyance towards these eagerly helpful strangers, was unfair, and I was perhaps developing into a horrible, bitterly disabled person. But, then I began to really think about my daily life, and how many times a day, for every day of my life, people constantly ask if I need help, and I realized that my feelings weren’t of bitterness, but just of frustration.

I found a great documentary series from a New Zealand company, called Attitude Productions, and I am in love with it! The clips I’ve been watching are called ‘The Truth About Disability’, and they highlight every aspect of life that people with disabilities go through, every day of their lives. And it seems that everyone in the series could definitely relate to my frustration of ‘the helpful’.

If you’ve never seen this documentary series before, please take a look, you won’t be disappointed, and you may even learn something! Go to: http://www.attitudepictures.com/attitude-tv/2011-episodes/?page=10&ccm_paging_p=10 – The website has a lot of other great stories and articles to offer too, so I recommend taking a look around.

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