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Blog: Ways someone without disabilities can help a person with disabilities

By Disabled DISventures

"It can be difficult when you want to help someone but you don’t really know how. If you encounter someone who seems to need help no matter who they are, something that you can do is say, “Hi! Do you need help? If you do, I would like to help you.”

But also remember that if someone doesn’t want your help, that is okay too. Most people with disabilities have gotten used to working through problems and while it is sometimes nice to have help, it’s important to know that we really don’t need it.

ID: two photos of Melissa who is posing and smiling at the camera.

For example, I have mobility problems, so I use mobility aids like a manual wheelchair or mobility scooter. At times, doors can present a problem for me. They can be heavy and unwieldy and sometimes an obstacle for me. But I have figured out ways with both aids to open and close them on my own.

I have had people who are trying to be helpful, get right in my way, because sometimes there isn’t much maneuverability for me if someone is opening the door. Most of the time I need that room more than I need the help with the door, and it is very uncomfortable for me to have to say “thank you but I am good”. Because people don’t believe you and because then it makes me feel bad because they are just trying to help which is rare and I don’t want to discourage that impulse!

I do also want to raise awareness that people who use wheelchairs view the wheelchair as a part of their body. Our wheelchairs are basically our legs. Please don’t grab the handles and just move us. This is very disconcerting, and it is violating having a stranger touch us in this way.

Another important thing to consider: Don’t make things harder on us.

For example, don’t put objects in the way of buttons for doors, wheelchair ramps, or anything someone with a disability would need in order to access the world. Another example is when I was at a theme park and went into a handicap stall in the bathroom. Someone clogged up the toilet with toilet paper and put toilet paper all over the bathroom making it unusable. We understand that things happen, but in instances like that, you shouldn’t be afraid to tell a staff member, “hey, I clogged up the toilet” or whatever so that it can be fixed.

Now that you are aware of some things you can do to better support those with disabilities, consider turning your individual actions into collective actions. Advocate in your own work, school, and life environments for better access and programs to help someone with disabilities. If you see areas that aren’t accessible for a wheelchair user like speaking up if you see someone or something blocking an accessible area. For example, if you have an extra minute at the grocery store and see carts blocking handicap spaces if you can move them to the cart return. Encourage your work or school to remind people that handicap restrooms are prioritized for those with disabilities and to use the regular stall if they are able to.

These are just some of the ways someone who is non-disabled can help a person with disabilities. There are a lot of different types of disabilities out there and a lot of different ways for a person to be helpful. Please don’t be afraid to ask someone if they need help.

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