By Yvonne Garris BSW
Any type of disability can be challenging especially if you have recently become disabled. People that are newly disabled have a large learning curve ahead of them. If you know someone that has recently become disabled the most important thing you need to know is ask before you do. You may think you are being helpful, but people with disabilities like to be able to do things themselves. Think of it this way, if you would not do it for someone else than why do you want to do it for a person with a disability?
I at one time was sighted so I can see both sides of the coin. Generally people with a disability may take a little longer to do things, so you may think you will just do it and it will be done. Trust me, that’s not the point. A person with a disability does appreciate it when you ask if help is needed. When you ask first this allows the person with a disability to make the choice and gives them the power. You are treating them with respect and as a person, not as a disability.
Do not be surprised if a person with a disability offers to help you. Remember that we are people first. Why should a person that is disabled have a pass for not being polite? I will hold the door open for someone or help give directions if I know where something is. I give my aunt directions on a regular basis.
Disabilities are like people, there is no one size fits all. Let’s take the phrase legally blind for instance. There is a very wide range of vision that the phrase encompasses and I am on the lower end. But if I tell someone I’m blind they automatically think I can’t see anything. Then there are people that use wheelchairs. Some people can walk, for short distances, but feel safer using a wheelchair than a walker. Some disabilities can be better one day and worse another.
In closing know that people with disabilities are just like everyone else, just a little different. Then again there are no two people that look alike either. So the next time you see someone with a disability do not be afraid to go up and say hello and please remember to ask before you try to help.