I have come to realize over the years that most people, contrary to the news, are basically good people with good intentions. I mention the good intentions as that has been one of the biggest barriers throughout my life. Almost everything I’m aware of that has been done to build a more inclusive society has been build on good intentions for the disabled component of the community. However that is also what makes it so difficult to be an independent individual.
I can dismantle and load my wheelchair in under 45 seconds. I often have people around that want to help with my chair. Now I was a cub and scout as a kid. The Children’s Hospital had scouts every Thursday night and my father was a local scout master so there wasn’t a lot of choice. With that background comes the understanding that everyone should do their good deed for the day and who am I to deprive them of that. So I often ignore my own independence and allow someone the opportunity to do something as simple as help me load my wheelchair into my car. It often takes five times as long to do this however this may be their good deed of the day and, as I said, who am I to deny them.
I always try to direct without sounding to condescending but sometimes people can get a little rough in trying to figure out what “Push the release button in the middle of the hub” means. This often results in some pretty nasty treatment to my wheelchair and it is difficult to handle if it is somebody’s good deed for the day. At the same time the importance of proper maintenance and treatment of my wheelchair cannot be understated. It is not like a pair of shoes where I have another six pair (or whatever, a number is a number) at home. If my wheelchair screws up (tire flat, broken spokes, etc) I’m the one that lives with the consequence of someone’s good deed.
It becomes a balancing act in accepting a helping hand. I have my routines which many people think looks awkward and difficult. It’s really no more difficult than you running up a staircase which to me looks awkward and difficult. I have had a number of issues in the past three months that have resulted in a couple of hundred dollars worth of repairs to my chair due to someone’s good intentions. And contrary to popular opinion, there is no disability fairy out there dropping money to pay for my repairs. The only way that might happen is if I succumb to society’s good intentions and go on disability welfare, called AISH in Alberta. However the loss of independence far outweighs the limited benefits of that but that is a topic for a whole different post.
There are reasons you don’t pet a service dog when they are working. And there are reasons why some people would rather you didn’t play with their wheelchair. Those are extensions of our independence and many people don’t seem to grasp the importance of these tools. You might forget your shoes at the beach but you can still walk back to the car. If my chair screws up I’m not going anywhere.
Now I’m not saying “don’t” help but I am suggesting you may want to ask the person with the disability “Is there anything I can do to help?” At least that way I am part of the decision!