Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Offering Help to a Disabled Person

My friend and fellow blogger, Stephen, recently posted Disability Etiquette Tips. Number three on that list read:
“Don’t assume that because a person has a disability, they are in need of assistance. If a person appears to need assistance, ask first.”
That’s some solid advice for muggles. Here's some advice for the disabled:

To a great extent, you are in charge of these situations. The bystanders are uncomfortable, uninformed, out of their element, and looking for guidance. Take charge and guide them.

People desperately want to help, and they typically fall into one of three categories:

This porridge is too hot: They help without asking. They over-help. When you encounter this variety, using a pleasant but firm voice, say something to the effect of, “Thank you so much for offering to help, but it’s important to me that I do this myself.” Don’t just sit there and let them make you uncomfortable.

This porridge is too cold: Due to an irrational fear of offending, they don’t offer to help, and may even appear disinterested while you struggle to get your coat on. But if you need help, and you can get their attention, ask them. They almost always jump at the opportunity.

This porridge is just right: They ask if they can help and respond accordingly. Be thankful when you encounter this variety.

No porridge at all: They are lost in their cell phone, and you’re invisible to them. Typically 25 years old or younger.

Kim is my blog proofreader. Her comment on this post was, “If you are employing the Goldilocks and the Three Bears analogy, does that make you Goldilocks?”

“Shut up. I am not Goldilocks.”

“Are too.”

“Am not,” and so forth, long into the night.


  1. I chortled at that last bit. I can just picture you in a golden wig with long curls

    This makes complete sense to me. At first, most of us lurch between different temperatures of porridge, depending on the circumstances. Practice and good manners, as in most things in life, allow us to get it right in due course. Your own technique for dealing with us inadequates is appropriately assertive without being OTT. I see you more as a Daddy Bear figure ...

    1. "Practice and good manners, as in most things in life, allow us to get it right in due course." Wise words from a wise man.

  2. i belong to a service sorority, ESA, and at meetings most people ignore me; i can only assume it is their discomfort with my disability. BUT they don't ignore my friend who also has MS, and until recently was more disabled than I. i am confused about this.


    1. Webster, that certainly seems unfair. Maybe talk to your friend with MS to see what she thinks?

  3. Great advice ! - I would add that the best question I have been asked by a helper (by the way younger than 25 years old) was :"How may I help you" and not "Can I help you" - it meant help will be given and gave me control on how it would be given :)

  4. Exactly right, Mitch! I seem to encounter almost exclusively the middle, just-right category, but if I am honest, I'd have to say that I wish I encountered more of the oblivious category as it is disconcerting to be reminded every few minutes, that I am disabled. Even though I am on a scooter and can walk even a few steps only with difficulty, I have arranged my world so that I can do almost everything by myself. I am an upbeat person, maybe it's the smile I usually have on my face that makes me so approachable, but frowning more to get less attention just wouldn't work for me. What I tell myself is that we all have numerous roles to play and this is just one of mine - to allow good people an opportunity to be helpful.

    I know it's just petty of me because, good grief, they are just trying to be decent human beings. My stock line is, "No thanks, I'm all set," and then add, "but thank you," (big smile).

    1. Well said, Daphne! The people, they want to help, and we are doing them a service in a sense if we either decline or accept their help with a smile.

  5. This puts it all in a perfect nutshell-Daphne, if you could bottle your mindset it would sell out in a second!