Monday, December 11, 2006

A Rant On "Help"

[Originally written on 26 September 2005]

This short - and incomplete - rant was prompted by several recent encounters and discussions. This poem was also one of the prompts for this rant.

Humans helping other humans is part of the social contract we should all be participating in, but I object to people who insist on `helping' me when I clearly don't need help, simply because they assume that having cerebral palsy makes me incompetent, and because they want to feel better about themselves.

You can tell the difference, if the people offering help see you as a fellow human being, they will *ask* first, and listen to the answer, and when you say, politely "Thanks for the offer, but I'm fine, I can manage", they won't take offence. And if you say, yes, thanks I could do with some assistance, they do whatever it is calmly, maturely, and if it actually involves physical contact with me or my assistive devices they *listen* to me when I say this is the best/easiest/least painful way of doing it. And they are happy with a simple "Thanks very much, really appreciate the assistance, have a great day" or other appropriate response. Help from those people is a pleasure.

If the people offering have some idea of themselves as `ministering angel', 'helping the unfortunate cripple', then they just barrel in, grab, push, whatever without asking - which can be dangerous, and if they do ask, and you refuse - politely (I stress that - because I'm always polite the first time, unless I'm physically grabbed without warning, then I scream bloody murder with *no* apology), they get sooooo offended - how *dare* I not let them help me, never mind that sometimes I'm just sitting there, and there is literally *nothing* they can help me with, even if I *wanted* to let them help me. I was sitting in the mall one day, in my scooter, enjoying the sunshine, reading a book - guy comes up to me out of nowhere "Can I help you?", Me, very puzzled thinks, help me with what? I'm not *doing* anything, do you want to turn a page for me?. "Um, no thanks."

We have the same right of refusal of assistance than any able-bodied person does. And it's the attitude of the person offering, I'm a human being, not some mindless cipher for someone else to project their fears and assumptions onto.

I also don't much like "help" from people who cannot understand that I'm also someone who can provide others with assistance when I can. It's the one-sidedness that galls, the assumption that I am not also a contributing functioning member of society in my own way.

But I feel censored a lot of the time, about this sort of thing by both able-bodied and disabled people, and get berated and attacked (who would have though expecting people to treat you like a human being would result in such attacks!) by some as well who tell me I'm `ungrateful'.

I will not coddle or patronise able bodied adults by assuming that they can't treat people with disabilities like human beings. They need to think about how they treat `Others', and I expect them to behave like the adults they are and *think* about their attitudes. Just as I do when I'm in a new situation or around people I'm not familiar with.

It's not rocket science.

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