Each handicap is like a hurdle in a steeplechase, and when you ride up to it, if you throw your heart over, the horse will go along, too. ~~Lawrence Bixby

Monday, September 28, 2015

“Do you need help?” vs “Let me help you.”

I had an experience last week that left me frustrated and a little angry. I was downtown unloading my scooter from the car (it has a power lift which makes it relatively easy); it got a bit hung up on the tailgate, but nothing I couldn’t manage. Suddenly a woman burst on the scene and declared her intention to help me. I didn’t need help, I just needed to readjust the scooter position a little, but she was insistent, even though I told her a couple of times that I didn’t need help. She proceeded to grab the scooter and pull on it, nearly yanking the basket off the front. I was so shocked that I don’t remember what I said, but it was something loud and firm like, “I’ve got this!” – she finally got the message and walked off in a huff. I don’t remember if I thanked her for her awkward attempt; I think I was a little too appalled.

I know her intentions were good, but why couldn’t she hear that I had it under control? Was it so hard for her to believe that someone with a disability could manage on her own? Or was she just determined to show that she was a good Samaritan?

Here’s how it leaves me feeling when something like this happens:
  •   unheard
  •   unseen
  •   frustrated
  •   disrespected
  •   that people think I'm incompetent

Perhaps it’s an overreaction, but there are so many things I’m now unable to do that when I am tackling something I can handle on my own, I want to be trusted to do it.

At the very least, I want to be asked and listened to.

I am frequently amazed at the number of times people help – opening doors, getting something off a shelf in the store – and I am exceedingly grateful. But the difference between “Do you need help?” and “Let me help you” is huge. The latter is, I believe, about them and shows no regard for the person they’re attempting to help. The former is respectful and indicates an awareness that the disabled person may be perfectly capable of doing the task on their own. Semantics? Perhaps, but important distinctions.

My encounter with the pushy woman last week could have been a teachable moment for her, but frankly when I’m trying to get somewhere, I have other things on my mind besides educating others on what’s appropriate behavior. Hopefully, she’ll think about it and do it differently next time. 

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Next steps (warning: puns ahead)

I decided to resurrect this blog since some new challenges have come up in the last six months or so, and I feel drawn to again share what’s going on in my little corner of the world. I knew it had been a while since I posted here, but didn’t realize that 3 ½ years had passed! Time flies.

I’ve learned a lot in the last few years about disability, access, acceptance, letting go, grief, love… some are lessons I’d rather not have to learn, but some are deep blessings and lessons in grace.

Berkeley Breathed
The most prominent pending change these days is my need for a power wheelchair in the very near future. Like most next steps for me, I’ve been dragging my feet (oh, so many pun opportunities!). I started talking about this over a year ago; then more serious talk, leading to a home evaluation by a PT and a vendor to learn the process for Medicare coverage (power chairs do not come cheap!) The ball was in my court, and I let it lie there for a while – I kept imagining what it would be like to wheel around the house. It felt so irrevocable, like the last nail in the coffin, the final act of giving in to the damn disability.

But walking, even with the walker, has become increasingly difficult and painful. I’ve had a few falls, and the thought of breaking a bone – or even spraining an ankle - is distressing. So I have an appointment with a PT next month who will evaluate the necessity for a chair, and then we can get the ball rolling. There are a series of hoops to jump through to satisfy Medicare that it’s a necessity. I’ve been told that because I am partially ambulatory, it might be difficult to convince them (so I have to wait until I’m flat on my back to qualify??) – but I’ve had such good experiences with the previous hoops I’ve jumped through, I have confidence it will be a slam dunk. (Have you noticed how athletic the words are for action plans??)

Meantime, we are examining the changes we might need to make in the house to accommodate a chair (we already had a ramp built last spring). I’ve been using my scooter more and more and have a better sense of how my days will roll with a chair. I’m starting to look forward to it now, because it’s so damned exhausting to walk from point A to point B and I’d rather spend my energy doing something more fun and productive. 

I have quite a few ideas for more blog posts, so stay tuned!