Do not grab me
I remind myself every day that people have good intentions. Sure, they may do or say something that is ignorant, but they do have good intentions. This does not allow for me to feel that what they have said or done is acceptable, but it simply helps me understand and be empathetic. More often than not, I find myself working very hard to practice this when people are trying to be of assistance, but are actually being insensitive and honestly unawaringly insulting.
Simply put, do not grab me. Grabbing someone who has a visible disability is displeasing. This happens to me at street intersections, near stair cases and other areas that are only made more dangerous and challenging when someone comes out of no where, startles me and grabs m. Now, this person means to offer assistance, but they are forcing their assistance based on false pretense; just because someone has a disability does not automatically mean they are in need of assistance. The best thing you can do is actually offer assistance by asking a question. From my observations, so people with disabilities may still be offended if you ask, but that is their own baggage.
I do not get so upset over this because of pride, but because I, like many other folks with disabilities, have developed a great set of skills and strategies in navigating complex environments. These skills and strategies come to as naturally and when they are suddenly disrupted with no gentleness, we are thrown off guard and this can result in a dangerous situation. For example, I know exactly how to use my cane to approach a set of stairs and can do so with great speed and ease. However, when someone feels the need to grab the collar of my shirt as I am at the first step to alarm me that there are stairs in front of me, this frightens me and can result in me losing my balance. Better-yet, I may think you are trying to rob me and may have the instinct to elbow you with all of my might and break your nose.
Additionally, when I am at a street intersection, do not grab me and attempt to safely escort me across the street, especially when the cars still have a green light. I do not know how many times people have told me to cross the street with them when I know very well that traffic still has the green light and the crossing light has not yet turned on. I know how to follow the patterns of traffic flow to understand when I can and can not cross a street. I do not want to be dragged into your stupidity and killed.
Some people will attempt to defend grabbing a person with a disability by comparing this scenario to seeing a child try to cross the street. Here is the difference: I am a grown, hairy man. I am 28-years-old and have acquired critical thinking skills which have given me the ability to navigate many complex situations over the last 28 years. Finally, my beard is also a symbol for “I must have made it pretty damn far in life to grow this beast” as well. Trying to compare these two completely different scenarios only supports the fact that some people see those with disabilities much like they do children. I am not an unaware and naive child, though.
I will not lie, there are some situations where it has been alright to grab me. The people who have grabbed me in these situations are family, friends and colleagues who have asked the questions and have gotten to know what my preferences and occasional needs for assistance are. Their automatic reactions have been informed and built upon mutual trust, conversation and learning. It has not been built upon bias and assumptions. Folks, the point of this post is to ask. If you do not know the person at all, you need to simply ask if they would like assistance.
Red light – rant over.