How to offer to help a person with a disability
Every single person is able to communicate, we all just do it in different ways: some of us use spoken language, while others use other means of communication. And the simplest tool you can use to communicate with a person with a disability is to ask them questions.
- Which side should you walk on so that they can hear you more clearly?
- Would it be comfortable for the person if you stand next to them? Would they prefer you to step back a little bit? Would it be better to find a chair and sit opposite someone who uses a wheelchair?
- If you are talking to a visually impared person, would they like you to accompany them while they are crossing the street?
Imagine the following situation: you see a wheelchair user struggling with a ramp or the threshold of a building. Wanting to help, you grab the wheelchair chair and push it forward. In this case, you will be lucky if the person just scolds you for invading their personal space. Much worse things could happen: the person you are in such a hurry to help can fall out of the wheelchair, break their arm, bump their face on the sidewalk, and so on. And the fact that you invaded their personal space is an insult in itself. How would you feel if someone picked you up and carried you across the road without warning or permission? You should not interfere in another person’s movement without their permission. Especially without knowing the peculiarities of their means of transportation.
Before rushing to help someone, make sure that your help is actually needed. If they agree to your help, ask what the best way to do it is. They’ll appreciate it and give you pointers on how to provide assistance.
The same goes for situations where you see a person using crutches. It may seem that they are having difficulty opening the door. But in fact, these doors can serve as an additional support for the person. And if you open them (even with the best of intentions), the person can lose their grounding and fall.
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