How do you think I should have felt about this?

To be clear, I am not asking for advice or guidance, I would just like to share this experience and get honest opinions about how it would make you feel if you were in my shoes.

A while back I was wheeling down the sidewalk that served as the path to the entryway to the establishment i was preparing to enter. Since the handicap parking spot was at the far end of this walkway (to coincide with the cut curb) i had to traverse the entire length of the sidewalk in order to get to the door.

Well just after i began to wheel myself down this little sidewalk, a gentleman who had already come out of the establishment and was halfway into his car to leave noticed me. Predictably, he asked me if i needed help with the door.

Being very very experienced with these offers i knew that i needed to communicate my needs extremely clearly and emphatically and perhaps a bit repetitely as well. If i didnt, many times my wishes would go unseen or interpreted as something other than what they meant on their face.

So i emphatically said “no thank you” while waving my arms in a “no” gesture and vigourously shaking my head. I even shouted “its actually easier for me if you dont.” I dont think i could have communicated myself any more clearly. How did this man respond? “Well, im gonna get it for you anyway.” And he rushed to get to the door before me.

I was shocked but unfortunately not surprised. I just continued on my way towards the door and stopped right in front of it and addressed him calmly. I said " Im going to go thru this door but i want to be clear, you did not do this for me. You did not do this to make my day any easier. You did this for yourself, to make yourself feel better, at my expense. So lets just be clear whats happening here." And i just went inside and went on with my day.

So how would you feel if you had been in my position? Do you agree or disagree with my interpretation of the man’s actions? What about my reaction? This was a particularly blatant example of the supposed “good samaritan” actions from people who arent really concerned about helping who they see as less able and needing/appreciating the help. Rather, its a selfish way of making themselves feel good about themselves by (perhaps subconsciously perhaps not) putting me in my place in the social hierarchy. Which is that of “lesser” or “other” and perpetuates ableism in our society.


I can understand how you find this kind of thing annoying. I’m pretty sure I’d feel the same as you in that situation. You explained why you didn’t want his assistance as I’m sure you’ve had to do many times before. Probably nothing else more pleasant you could have said would make a difference.

To be clear, i am not saying that this represents all people who offer me help. Obviously many people honestly do just want to help. Im talking about a subset of people who discriminate under the guise of good samaritanship.

I don’t know if it’s discrimination but there’s something off when people insist on helping after being clearly told you don’t need or want help. The point of a good deed is not to make yourself feel better.

How would I have felt in your position? Probably mildly annoyed.

How would I have felt in *his *position? I’m sure I would have muttered a personal insult under my breath.

A simple “Thanks, but really, I could have handled this.” would have sufficed. I don’t feel his offense warranted the full dressing down that you provided.

I’m not in your position, but you asked my opinion. It seems to me that you got unduly huffy about it. I can appreciate your pride in your independence. Some folks are just enthusiastically helpful, and I think it’s best to just accept their help and thank 'em, even if you didn’t need the help.

You actually said “it’s easier for me if you don’t” and he did it anyway? He deserved what you gave him.

There’s being overly eager to help, and then there’s just not listening. The latter actually dehumanizes the person they’re ignoring.

I generally see elderly or people with canes or walkers as more needful of door help. Just because of the logistics of the thing. I never would consider opening a door for someone in a wheelchair. I can see how doing it themselves would be less cumbersome. But, saying that, not every person can know this. My advise would be to just grin and bear it. I know it can be tedious and you deserve to be treated as an, other walking, able bodied person. Dude, aint gonna happen. People need to help for whatever reason.

I would have been pissed off.

I think your reaction was fine. Sometimes people need sharp lessons. He wasn’t a monster or a terrible person for insisting on opening the door for you, but you explicitly asked him not to do it, and a sharp lesson is appropriate so that he doesn’t make that mistake again.

Sharp lessons (i.e. harsh words when someone violates boundaries) can be very useful, and they’re probably under utilized in our society, especially by members of various marginalized groups.

I don’t know because my lived experience is very different than yours. I don’t know all the ways that people in wheel chairs are disadvantaged and looked down on in society. I will say that I learned something from you sharing your experience and I appreciate it. Is it too much trouble for you to share why it’s so much harder to use a door someone is holding open for you? Or is it just the aggravation of being ignored when you made your wishes clear that bothered you?

I have had the experience of trying to help people who don’t know how to say “yes” when they really need help. They sincerely say “thank you” when you render assistance. Anyone who has let their pride get in the way of taking help that is offered to them or their children that they really need has fallen into this trap. Rejecting welfare on principle is much the same problem.

I don’t know the guy at the door so I can’t read his emotions but I doubt he was consciously trying to “put you in your place in the social hierarchy.” My hunch is that this guy really was trying to help and he thought you were saying no to him because you didn’t want to inconvenience him. He didn’t consider it much of an inconvenience and he wanted to help anyway. The unfortunate fact seems to be that his small effort made you feel worse without actually helping you in any way.

I think we’re a better society when we try to help one another out. To me, holding the door for a person in a wheel chair seems like an opportunity for specialization of labor to provide a net benefit for society. Maybe it takes me five seconds to hold the door for you. In the end, maybe it saves you ten seconds, and on net, we saved five seconds of our combined time. If our time is equally valued, I feel that we might be better off as a society if I hold the door for you every once in a while. I also let people in wheel chairs enter a crowded subway car first because I know I can maneuver around a little better and I’m less likely than they are to get left at the station.

If it TRULY WOULD have been mechanically less work overall for everyone if no one had showed up to “help”, then you are unambiguously right in every way. Otherwise, though you’re still right, things are not necessarily so simple.

There is more than one way to look at the situation that happened, and none of those ways is inherently wrong.

One is pure mechanics, how to save work, with “work” as defined in your science textbook, satisfying equations with no thought for anything else. This one has a single correct answer, though it might not be obvious what that is.

Another is social expectations and politeness. This one can be very tricky, because this category is often taught as a set of rote-memory rules that aren’t explicitly logical. They are indeed logical, but often not explicitly. People are often not taught how to work out problems in politeness (as they ARE taught to work out problems in math class) - they are just given a list of rules and told “follow these, or else”. One of the canned rules that people are taught is “open the door for [insert list here]”. Some people will place a high value on that rote learning, higher than on any instructions to the contrary, because they believe that the instructions to the contrary are simply an invitation to follow an inferior and perhaps even depraved set of rules. SOME but not all old-fashioned gentlemen for example, might open the door for a lady, even especially for an impolite and improper lady who suggested that they should not do it after all - does that make sense? In essence, he values his grandmother’s opinion higher than he values the opinion of this random person who he has never met.

AND the kicker: In old-fashioned learn-by-rote rules, a wheelchair or a disability are probably not even mentioned! Now what?

So there’s a potential clash, rote politeness vs. consider what the person actually wants. And there might also be a different clash, pure mechanical efficiency vs. preferred solutions.

In short, you and he may be programmed differently.

Or, in short, he may be an asshole.

If there’s any doubt, attribute it to stupidity and not malice.

OK, after all that, I would have just done what you said, because obviously. Even IF for some reason I thought YOU were an asshole with your waving and your tone, still, I would have done what you suggested, because to me you’ve left no reasonable other options and certainly no doubts. Why anyone would insist after what you said… I mean intellectually I can maybe get it, but he just sounds ridiculous.


Maybe your interpretation is correct.

Or maybe he was operating from a script where, if you had asked for help or even accepted the help that was offered, if would have made you look weak. By helping you anyway, even after you had refused, he was allowing you to keep your dignity.

I don’t blame you for getting upset. And I’m not claiming that my interpretation is more likely correct than yours.

But there’s just something about the situation you described that reminds me of the “dances” people do to follow the cultural rules of etiquette. Like how, among some people, if someone offers you something, the polite thing to do is to refuse, and then, if the person really wants you to have the thing and wasn’t just offering to be polite, you can accept after the second or third offer. But in other circles, it would be rude to refuse when someone offers you something, even if you don’t want it.

Ambivalid: Do you think it’s a possibility that his attitude was “These are the social rules, you and I don’t make them up we just follow them, why are you trying to mess with me let’s just follow the rules OK?”

(a) I certainly can see why you were frustrated by the situation
(b) But I think you are over-reaching in claiming that you know what motivated him. You claim he did it for himself, and to put you in your place. I think that by far the simpler explanation is that his mindset was similar to a cultural norm I’ve heard described in which when you visit someone’s house they offer you food, and you are expected to decline, and they are expected to offer it again, etc, with each person out-politing the other. That is he thought it was polite to offer, and he then thought it was equally polite for you to decline the offer even though it was obviously (from his (incorrect) perspective) the case that you would in fact benefit from his help

I guess one question worth asking is this: did he walk away from this more or less likely to have respectful interactions with people with disabilities in the future? Hard to say… maybe he’ll take the lesson to heart, and continue to offer help but be more willing to not push it when it is declined. Or maybe the whole thing will leave such a bad taste in his mouth that he won’t offer help at all in the future even in occasions when it would be very helpful. Hard to say.

If he hadn’t asked, and just held the door, it would be a little more ambiguous, but seeing as he bothered to ask, indicating that he was not following a script, and you told him “No,” then he basically said “I know what’s better for you than you do,” he was taking a patronizing attitude I see people take with disabled people all the time. Half of what makes life hard for people with disabilities is people who don’t ask and just do stuff, thinking they know what’s best.

I can think of a dozen pretty serious examples off the top of my head-- times when people have actually put things into statute that were supposed to help people, and ended up making things harder for them, all because nobody consulted the group in question before making the change. I won’t list them all, and make a TL;DR post, but it happens all the time.

I hope that guy learned something, but I doubt he did.

If you had run over his toes, you would not have been out of line. You could have said “That’s what happens when you get in my way.”

I feel like people who ask you a question and then ignore your wishes, deserve whatever is thrown back at them. I don’t care what their motivation is.

I have been dealing with the interactions with society from the vantage point of a wheelchair for 18+ years. I am EXTREMELY familiar with my declines of offers of help being taken for things other than what i verbalize. Whether it be pride, or a desire not to hassle the person offering the help. I understand why this might happen but think about the box it puts me in. I am damned if i do and im damned if i dont. And in what other context and what other group of people have their words second guessed and taken from them and decided by the person they are addressing?

And as far as how it is actually more inconvenient to have someone open a door i am about to go thru, it’s like this: often times the person has to awkwardly hold the door by being partially in the doorway itself. Getting past the person is awkward, whether it be ducking underneath their outstretched arm or actually having to say “excuse me, i cant get by” because their position blocks me from making it thru.

Shouldn’t I be able to have my words taken at face value? Just like everyone else? I have the experience and ability to open and go thru a door with such fluidity that i dont even have to slow down. That is definitely not the case when i have to stop fully and politely somehow make it thru the well-intentioned (?) but hindersome good samaritan who decided for me that my saying “no thanks” really meant “yes please but i just cant say it”. Do you see how utterly offensive that is? As well as unhelpful?

Park yourself outside a busy doorway sometime. Watch how people interact. They hold the door open for other people most of the time. Are the doing it to put the other person in their place in the social hierarchy? No. Not even a little bit. If I hold the door open for a male coming behind me, do I make him less manly? No. Not even a little bit.

As others have pointed out, frequently people say no to offered help, despite the fact it is helpful. People don’t want to inconvenience others.

I work with people in wheelchairs all the time. I also push wheelchairs constantly at work. Can I push the automatic door button easily? Sure. Does it make me less of a person if someone else pushes it in an effort to help? No.

How does some standing out of the way and holding a door open make it harder for you to go through the door? Perhaps he was standing in your way, but I don’t otherwise see that as making it harder.

I can see that this is very important to you. It should be. But being an asshole to someone that is doing you no disservice makes the world a much worse place, and doesn’t help you at all.

ETA , your most recent post was made while I was writing.