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:
- 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.