How people can actually help me as a wheelchair user

The most common question I get when I meet people or in my training is, “how can I help disabled people” – which is a funny one because there’s an expectation that disabled people need help, which isn’t always the case. I wrote about this previously but this time I thought I’d write how people can actually help – notice in the title I used me, this is important to note because obvs everyone’s different but I thought I’d just share my experience.

*edit – I used the word “help” here – but I want to acknowledge how this word does have infantilising connotations. I probably would use assist usually, however I purposefully use “help” in this post as that’s the most common question I get, which is – “how can I help?“. Anyway back to it, here’s some thoughts…

Packing my bags at the supermarket

Going to the supermarket is geekily one of my favourite things to do – I bloody love it. The people watching, the small talk and don’t get me started on finding bargains. But the till bit stresses me out. As we live in a world of impatience and quick expectations, I always find myself fumbling and feeling chaotic. So when the till person offers to pack my bag I always accept the offer and am grateful for it. 

Finding out accessibility information

I’ve talked about this online a lot, but navigating the world that’s catered to mostly non-disabled people can be tiring. So when someone offers to find out if I can get into a restaurant or if there’s a disabled loo, I always sigh with relief. This also counts for when I’m on a train needing to get off, and someone offers to find a staff member if no one is there with a ramp to greet me. It’s those things that really make traveling a little easier. 

Pressing the button for the road crossing

Just something I’ve always found hard to do as the buttons are always so blooming high. I also get conscious when people around are watching like “ooh is she gonna reach is she not”. So when someone offers to press it I say YES PLEASE. In fact, something that warms my heart is when someone across the road presses it as they’re just walking past it. They give a little nod and I smile and wave saying thank you. Lovely. 

So there you go, those are just some of the ways people can help me as a wheelchair user. But, as I said – this won’t be for everyone so before you assume someone needs help – always ask. Or you never know, they may be able to help you too… but that’s for another post!