Disabled/handicapped person turning down help?

Okay, let me first premise this by admitting that I use a rollator, which is a rolling/wheeled walker because of severe arthritis in both knees as well as COPD. And yes, it is prescribed by my physician.

A week or so ago, a co-worker in another office was coming into the break room as I was exiting. She offered to hold the door open for me, but I declined her offer, in a manner I thought was polite, so that I wouldn’t be in her way – my knees were hurting right then and I was moving kinda slow. Well, apparently that person felt that was my only chance at getting the door held open for me: when we met today just outside the break room door, she went through first, and closed the door quickly behind her. :dubious: WTH was up with that?! Just because I demurred on some assistance once does not mean that I don’t want assistance ever.

Then, when I was having lunch with my regulars, I told them about what had happened. One tried to tell me that oh yes, there are handicapped/disabled people that do NOT want to be helped, they’d rather do it themselves. :dubious: I definitely find that a dubious statement to believe. It’s fine to be able to know how to do things on your own and by yourself, without assistance, because there will definitely be times when there isn’t anyone around to help. But some days are harder than others and sometimes yes, you would like assistance. Someone to hold a door open for you to be able to push your walker through rather than having to push the door open yourself and try to maneuver over a doorstep.

Are there any other handicapped or disabled who might want to speak out here? What do you feel about this? What about this “I don’t want any help” statement my friend made?

Really? God, I have been yelled at before by handicapped people when I tried to help them. Even just some simple things like holding the door for them. I think maybe it reminds them too much of their disability? But frankly that’s bullshit. I’m not doing anything for you that I wouldn’t do for someone else, honestly.

Not often, of course, but enough times that it sticks out in my head.

For me, it’s a delicate balance. My particular issues are a slippery slope - the less I do, the more problem they are but the more I do, the more pain and the less well things work. I also find that the more help I get, the more I tend to rely on it rather than trying to do for myself. And there is always pride - “no dammit, I can do it myself!”. :smiley: So, basically my friends and family have come to understand that I don’t want help unless I ask for it. Which I should do more often since I’m having more fatigue…

There’s a difference between “If you need anything, just give a yell” and “Here, let me do that for you.” The way an offer of help is phrased can make a huge difference.

Sometimes we able-bodied people are uncomfortable around disabled/handicapped for this exact reason; we don’t know how much or little assistance to offer. She offered once and you declined. Now she’s not sure how to act and would rather not deal with it at all.

I’ve seen people who clearly look like they need assistance turn down well-meaning offers of help, sometimes rather rudely. It happens.

Try telling the co-worker that this incident involved that because you declined once, it doesn’t mean that you will never ask her for help.

If you needed help, why didn’t you call out to her when you saw she was closing the door? Clearly she would have helped you. I think she just didn’t want to offer repeatedly after being turned down and felt you would ask if you needed assistance.

First you turn help down. Then you are mad when she doesn’t help. How the hell is anybody going to read your mind? Your story makes perfect sense from your perspective. It’s just that nobody on earth could guess it. If my help were rejected the first time, I would believe the person wanted to assert their independence and I would be disrespecting them by continuing to offer help, especially so close in time to the first incident. Therefore, I would not offer help. However, I would be very attentive to any signs that the person really needed assistance.

Huh, thanks for some eye-opening insights, folks! I do appreciate it. Anaamika, I’m sorry that the rude incidents stand out in your mind; they are probably tipping the balance against the nicer or even less rude folks. Curlcoat, yes, you should ask for help when you do need it, as should I, and thanks to LurkerInNJ, Leaffan, and Al Bundy for pointing this out.

I did not speak up today–it happened so quickly and I really wasn’t in a hurry to get into the breakroom. My main thing is that I don’t want to be a burden on someone or hold others up. I’ll just have to be more discerning and careful of my tone of voice, particularly if I am demurring assistance. Also, people are uncomfortable with disabled who might not appear to be disabled–it’s hard to tell someone who has Chronic Fatigue Syndrome or COPD.

Thanks again to all who’ve contributed already. :slight_smile:

I have encountered a few impaired people who seem to equate any offers of assistance as pity. Personally, I’m going to offer to hold the door for anyone whether they’re on their own two feet, using a walker, in a chair, or turning cartwheels.

I think the answer for the rude people “I’m not holding the door because you’re disabled. I’m holding it because I’m polite.”

Or is that too snarky…? :wink:

If I may glom a question on to this thread, is it better to ask if a person needs help before doing anything? Seems to me, a smile and a “Can I give you a hand?” should be well-received by any reasonable person.

I’m paralyzed from the stomach down, and I use a wheelchair. Being offered help, or asking for help can be tricky. There’s a lot of uncertainty for all parties involved. I went to a college that could get a lot of snow. The walkways on campus wouldn’t be cleared before people had walked over them, and compacted the snow, which would make it difficult to get through.

It’s been a while, but it seemed when I started some people would offer to push me. This was in the fall, and not really a time when I needed any assistance. By the time winter and snow came around, people weren’t offering, because I turned them down before. Other strangers weren’t offering, because my generation was brought up to treat everyone the same, and people would rarely offer to push me through the snow (that is what I was guessing). I was hesitant to ask, because I didn’t want anyone to feel put out, or obligated. I figured if I were to ask it would happen to be someone who was in a rush and either would feel guilty for declining, or wind up late, because they felt obligated to help.

Eventually, I learned that the best response when offered help is to say “No, thank you, but if there was snow on the ground I would take you up on it!” Something similar to that.

tarragon918, something like that might help you. It’s OK to turn down the help, but leave the door open for the future. You could turn it down by saying something like “Thanks, but you don’t have to wait on me, maybe next time though …” Or “I need the practice today, but I might need a hand tomorrow.” That way they have an out, or know what they’re in for and will have to wait on you.

Going through doorways can turn into a dance too. I can easily open doors on my own, but people will often try to hold doors for me. I’ll thank them, but then point out that they will need to move (and not hold the door) so I don’t run over their toes.

Now that I’m not in school anymore, I usually get offers for help getting out of my car. It’s usually from strangers, and I’ll do the same thing, where I thank them, and say I’d take them up on it if the weather was bad, but I can do it. It’s pretty simple to get out of my car, and put the wheelchair together for me, because I’m used to it. There are enough moving parts to be complicated for someone who doesn’t know what they’re doing, so they would probably just get in my way. Though I have decided that I will start accepting the help if it’s a cute girl, even if there’s nothing for them to do. Of course, I’m so used to saying “No, thank you” that I missed the exact scenario I was looking for a few weeks ago when I was going to breakfast. :smack:

FairyChatMom, I think your first joke would be funny, but you never know how other people will take it. Offering “Can I give you a hand?” or just saying “Let me get that.” and doing it, if it’s quicker for you is perfectly fine. I was leaving a clothing store on a windy day, so the door was a little bit harder to open, and I was balancing a bag of clothes on my lap. I was making it through, but a clerk said, “I’ll get that for you.” She wasn’t right by the door, so I said “thanks, but I can get it.” She said, “I know you can, but it’s windy.” The “I know you can …” is a line that is (I’m pretty sure) out of a how-to-help guide. I know it’s something you’re supposed to say to a little kid, but it worked perfectly.

Basically, treat others the way you would want to be treated. Mean people do exist though, and sometimes they’re disabled. Don’t let a bad experience, or tentativeness keep you from offering help to someone in the future, because it might be me, and I might need it!

There was a blind man in my neighbourhood who once tapped his cane on someone’s leg who was waiting at the bus stop, then continued rapping up his leg until his was repeatedly slamming his cane into the mans crotch! The man on the receiving end on the cane lashes politely, and given the circumstances remarkably calmly, asked: “Do you need some help, sir?” and the blind man started roaring indignantly, I’ve been able to take care of myself for 30 years! I certainly don’t need your help!.." and kept tearing a strip off the guy on and on until another pissed off bystander person finally called him out. “Are you sure you can manage because you’ve been slapping the guy in the nuts.”

That tends to be the exception rather than the rule though. A different man in my new neighbourhoods lives somewhere nearby and we often cross paths as he makes his way very, very slowly down the street with his cane. Our dog was waiting for us patiently outside a shop one day and we only looked up in time to see the man tapping whim with his cane, gently, and both man and dog looked confused. When the dog is moving his collar jingles, but lying still, all the man could feel was something big and squishy in his path. This man doesn’t seem to mind if you explain an unusual obstacle. “Pardon me, my silly dog is blocking the entire sidewalk again”, but generally if it looks like he needs assistance, we wait until he asks.

When he needs help he does ask. “Where is the door to the pharmacy?” Answer: “Oh, about 5 or 6 more steps.” Etc.

Yes, *ask first! * People know if they need help and there’s no reason for you to assume they do, even if they look like they’re having trouble – maybe they’re figuring out how to do whatever it is on their own, or they just don’t want to be bothered. Personally, if I need a hand, I’ll ask. Stores put stuff waaaaay too high sometimes! And if somebody asks if I need help and I don’t I just say no thanks. I don’t want to be a jerk about a well-intentioned offer, I’d be as willing to offer them a hand with something if need be.

It amuses me when people, and they’re usually older men, run ahead of me to grab doors for me. I know they’re hit with the double whammy of a woman who also has obvious physical deficits – gotta get that door! It’s especially fun if I still make it ahead of them and hold the door for them. :slight_smile:

And for those who’ve run into attitudes, there’s no reason somebody who’s disabled can’t be having a bad day or just flat out be kind of a jerk. They’re human after all.

I agree with whiterabbit, just ask first. And “no thank you” **means **“no thank you”. I do realize I can be stubbornly independent (something an Occupational Therapist once called me; I was amused when she said that and wholeheartedly agreed), but I always try to be polite the first time someone offers help because sometimes I **do **need it (I’m paraplegic), although I will ask if I need help. My politeness rapidly diminishes though if someone persists in trying to help after I say “no thank you”.

One thing that really bugs me though, is someone coming up behind me and pushing my wheelchair without asking. DON’T EVER DO THAT. I actually had one person a while back ask me if my brakes were on after she started pushing me (without asking) and kept pushing me after I had firmly said no thank you. No, my brakes weren’t on; I was holding on to the wheels. Let’s just say my next “no thank you” was rather hostile to put it mildly.

I realize some people like more help than I do, but asking if someone needs help and immediately accepting a “no” answer covers all possibilities.

(too late to edit my previous post). Just realized that this has gone somewhat off topic from the OP since that related to not getting help on subsequent occasions. Still, my comments are somewhat relevant anyway. “No thank you” means I don’t want help now. It’s possible I might want it later.

I’m trying to imagine a scenario in which I would stand motionless while someone repeatedly hit me in the Jackson Pollocks with a cane.

Nope. Can’t do it.

wheelchair user here: I (IMO) am good at politely declining help. I tend to be good about maneuvering my chair in and out of places, and grabbing stuff off grocery store shelves.

Not exactly what the OP was asking about, but I attended a presentation by the campus disability office the other day and they said that according to a survey of students more than half of those who identified as having a disability said they wouldn’t seek help from the campus disability office. It’s this office that handles things like making sure reasonable accommodations are made for students who have disabilities, like extra time for tests, audio books, and flexibility about medical absences, but quite a few students are apparently reluctant to ask for this help.

Since the disability office does work with students with learning disabilities or mental health issues in addition to those with physical handicaps, I’m sure some of the reluctant students don’t want to get help from the disability office because they’re afraid of having professors treat them like they’re stupid or crazy. But the speakers from the disability office said they are aware that even students with physical disabilities do not always contact them, or struggle along for a year or more at college before seeking help.

Lamia-In a conversation with the accommodations person at the CC I hope enroll in this fall, he was surprised I NEVER utilized accommodations when I originally went to college.

Sorry to flog a dead horse, but is it that they need help but aren’t asking or that they don’t need help? “Identifying as disabled” covers a lot of ground. Physical accommodations like ramps, accessible washrooms, etc. are more or less a one-time issue; when they are dealt with they are no longer a concern. Once you deal with those you’ll get a lot less requests from people with mobility issues (note I said “less requests”, not “no requests”). Other needs like audio books or unusual needs for absences don’t go away. So, while I accept what you are saying I’d need to see a breakdown by disability before I got concerned.