Even if you have the best of intensions, it’s possible to get it wrong when trying to help someone with a disability.
To raise awareness of common mistakes people make, disabled people on Reddit have been sharing the things people say and do that unintentionally do more harm than good.
From the patronising to the downright insulting, here’s what they had to say.
1. “I appreciate it when I tell people I’m deaf and they don’t act like I just told them my dog died.”
2. “This might be obvious to some, but don’t ever just grab someone’s wheelchair and start pushing them around without asking. This would be like grabbing a stranger by the elbow and dragging them where you want them to go. Instead, just offer assistance like you would anyone and if they need it, they’ll usually gladly accept. Offering to help is never rude. but trying to help when it’s unwanted definitely can be.”
3. “It’s hard to explain Tourette’s to some people because it is kind of a weird disorder that wax and wanes over time and has a bunch of symptoms that confuse people.
“Sometimes people will ask me something like ‘do you know when one of your tics will occur?’ And I will tell them I can sometimes - and then they will make the brilliant suggestion: ‘Well if you know, why don’t you just not do it?’
“Thanks guys, never tried that before.”
4. “When people say ‘but you don’t look autistic’ when I bring up that I have Aspergers. Like, I’m sorry, should I just wear a rubber helmet everywhere I go? It’s called a spectrum for a reason folks.”
5. “You’re so inspirational!”
6. “I’m young, relatively attractive and look totally healthy. Monday I can walk... all day long. Tuesday I might have to use the electric scooter because my dizziness is out of control and I don’t feel like forcing myself to stay conscious. It doesn’t help when people say: “But you look so healthy.”
“Yes, thank you. I just like to ride these things for attention. One time, I had someone take a picture of me. Another time a guy on crutches glared at me as I drove by. Trust me dude, I honestly need it more than you today.”
7. “Don’t ask how the disability happened if you’re in a casual or fun environment. Seriously, if the story is tragic, it ruins the night.”
8. “You wouldn’t go grabbing random people in the street, so why the exception for blind people?
“If you want to offer assistance, that’s fine, but speak up, clearly direct your enquiry and don’t make physical contact without prior permission.”
9. “Whenever people realise/I tell them I have high-functioning autism, they give really exaggerated movements and voices.
“Not only does it make you look stupid and insensitive, but it stops me from learning and practicing the emotional cues I lack.”
10. “Assuming that because I can’t do some things that I can’t do anything. I have back pain and my mum will do all kinds of basic things for me that I am capable of doing.
“I always have to stop her and remind her that there are plenty of things I can still do and while I know she just wants to help, the bigger help is letting me do the things I am capable of doing. Needing as much help as I do is frustrating and doing the things I can do for myself gives me a sense of normalcy and can be empowering at times.”
11. “As someone who walks on prosthetic limbs, I am pretty independent on my own in terms of moving around, the only time I do need help is walking up or down the stairs.
“There are plenty of good people that are more than willing to help me out if I do need it, but they over do it, by which I mean if I ask for only a shoulder they will try to grab my arm or wrap their arm around over my back to try and support my weight. This does not help me and makes if even harder for me to climb or get down stairs.
“So if next time someone asks you just for a shoulder for support, just give them as much as they require not more not less, unless requested for more assistance.”