Was I an asshole (to a guy in a wheelchair)

Got a domestic squabble I need input on.

Shopping in the supermarket with the missus, there’s a guy in a wheelchair reaching for something on a higher shelf, I say “Want me to get that for ya?”, he just says “No thanks”, I think nothing of it.

Get back to the car and I get mildly scolded that I shouldn’t have offered unless asked as it’s patronising to assume he’d want help from a stranger, that it’s an independence thing. I don’t think I was stamping on his independence, I was just being polite.

But then assholes usually don’t know they’re assholes, so I need some outsider input. Whadya reckon?

A polite offer can be politely refused, in a wheelchair or out of it.


No, I don’t think you were, since you were polite and didn’t insist or do it against their wishes. An asshole move would be to grab it and hand it to them, or disregard the “no”, or insist, or something like that, IMO.

I’m curious about Ambivalid’s opinion to see if there’s something I didn’t consider.

You can’t be expected to be a mind-reader.
People in wheelchairs do not have a hive mind, just because that specific person didn’t want help doesn’t mean nobody does. I can easily see the exact same situation playing out where the person in the wheelchair wants help but is too shy to ask for it.

Also, reaching for things on high shelves isn’t exclusive to people in wheelchairs.

I don’t think you were being an asshole. You don’t know why he was in the wheelchair. Maybe he’s a dude with independence issues who felt insulted by your offer, or maybe he has two badly sprained ankles from falling down the stairs and was feeling super frustrated by not being able to reach the top shelf. Who knows? You were being polite.

It’s all good.

Now, “Hey gimpy, why don’t you let a BIPED get that down for ya?!” might have been a teensy bit over the line.

I agree; in general it’s best to wait until asked, since people in wheelchairs do get a lot of patronizing from people. But you were polite and not an asshole here, taking no for an answer.

I’ll tell you from the perspective of someone who is married to a man in a wheelchair (he has severe mobility issues and can walk painfully for short distances.)

For Ivylad, it’s a sense of pride that he can do things for himself. He may struggle, but he will give it a go. If he can’t he asks for help.

I’ve learned to offer help if I see him struggling and if he refuses to let it go. Normally he will ask me to assist him with something if he needs it.

Exactly. Politeness and consideration on both sides is mutually beneficial.

I voted not an asshole.

Yep, I’d say the same as well. My mother is a Polio survivor, is in a wheel chair. She too would ask for help if she needs assistance. However she would never think anything negative about someone asking to help, nor would she think it was rude in any way. Everyone’s so sensitive these days. Geez you were trying to be nice. I say good for you and if someone wants to be offended because offered to help then that’s their problem not yours. I consider what you did is the equivalent of offering to hold a door open for someone, etc. If it were short person I’m assuming you wouldn’t hesitate to offer to get something off a top shelf for them.

I suspect Ivylass might agree with this too… I could start a whole new thread about my feelings on people who talk ‘down’ to people in wheel chairs. My mom was (now retired) an attorney with state court of appeals, was on the board of Ability Resources, etc. etc. Not a dumb person by any stretch of of the imagination; yet I can’t count the number of times any or all of the following happened:

  • talked down to
  • talked to in baby talk
  • been ignored completely (i.e. asking my dad what she’d like to have)
  • said something like “aww poor you.”

Depending on my mood, I’d offer the same assistance you did. Same way in certain situations I’d offer an arm to the blind, directions to someone who looks lost, assistance or give up my seat to the elderly. Hell, I’ve even been known to (GASP) hold doors open for able bodied women - AND MEN!

Some people accept gratefully, others decline graciously. Very few act insulted. If they react badly, that’s something they have to deal with, not me.

I use a wheelchair or walking frame depending on the day. If you offer help, I either say yes or no, if I say no, go away.
You asked, you accepted his refusal, you then left him alone.
If that pissed him off, the asshole was not you.
People who won’t take a "no thanks ", are a problem, that wasn’t you.

Trump and Osama bin Laden would not permit their wives to scold them mildly.

Your wife likes to borrow grief, does she? You asked, wheelchair guy declined. You both moved on with your lives. Sounds like wifey is the only one with a problem and she wasn’t part of the conversation.

A somewhat related thing happened to me (or near me) a few months ago on the subway (DC Metro)-- it was somewhat crowded, and all of the seats were occupied, and a blind man boarded the train. The blind man was otherwise able-bodied and healthy, from what I could tell (he used a cane – if there’s another name for the cane that some blind people use, I’m not sure of it). He boarded and stood by the train bulkhead.

One standing woman tried to urge some of the seated people to get up to give the blind man their seat, but before anything happened, the blind man got off at the next stop.

I thought she was being presumptuous and perhaps infantilizing – that this presumably healthy blind man was as able to stand comfortably as anyone else, and wouldn’t want to be treated as if he was weak or unhealthy, though perhaps he would have liked to know if a seat was available (since presumably he wouldn’t be able to determine that on his own). Should I or anyone else have offered him a seat?

God dammit. I do not want to live in a world where basic human consideration is a fucking microaggression.

You are right, your SO is aggressively wrong. :smack:

ETA: This one strikes home for me because I’m tall. Very tall, statistically speaking. And TBH, one of the few small ways I can easily improve the world is reaching stuff put way up high for people who can’t for themselves. FFS.

Some people are just too short to reach the top shelf. It’s no different from offering to help them.

Ha, well I thought it worth thinking on, I don’t know what it’s like using a wheelchair, maybe they are constantly bombarded by well meaning but annoying strangers offering help where it’s not ask. I’m glad that this doesn’t appear to be case.

I’ve never encountered anyone talking down to my husband. I wonder if it’s a gender thing?

We have noticed some people are oblivious (perhaps because he’s going by at chest level to them, not eye level) but a quick, “excuse me” and they scamper out of the way.

You would be an asshole if you didn’t offer to help.

I concur. As a short person, I am very grateful when the tall ones in the world offer to get something off the top shelf for me at the grocery store. Otherwise I have to put my feet on the lowest shelf in order to reach, and no one wants that.