Monday, January 11, 2010

Let Go!

I've been told about the phenomenon by various disabled people, but had never experienced it myself until today. The phenomenon of a complete stranger grabbing hold of you without warning, to 'help'.

Today was the first time I left the house since the snow started. It was a very scary prospect, helped a lot by yaktrax. My walking can be pretty dodgy at the best of times, but amidst ice and snow I just haven't been able to risk it. But by today I was tearing my hair out. I needed to see something other than my 4 walls. So, yaktrax and woolly hat on, I ventured out.

It was pretty precarious. The city centre pavements were worse than I'd anticipated, but I did most of what I had to do, then waited for my bus home.

It was when the bus arrived that the presumably well-meaning man grabbed me. From behind. By the shoulders. The jumping-out-of-my-skin which resulted was far more likely to make me lose my balance than any amount of ice, and his holding onto my shoulders was hardly going to help with that.

It was only when he said, "Here, let me help you on the bus" that I knew I wasn't being mugged.

I know, I know, he was only trying to help. But seriously, grabbing a woman from behind is not a good thing to do. It's inappropriate and way too invasive to personal space. And when that woman has a walking stick, which is perhaps why you're grabbing her, you're probably more likely to cause injury than to prevent it.

If you really want to help, just ask. I would have actually appreciated being able to hold onto Mr Grabby's arm to help me on the bus, had he asked if I needed any help. Don't presume, don't grab, don't force a blind person across the road or a wheelchair user down a kerb. If you ask, and they need help, they'll tell you what you can do. And you won't frighten or injure them that way.


Laura Cousins said...

I think this is a REALLY valuable post. I have a friend with MS and she falls down regularly. In fact, she has been taught how to fall, in a way that reminds me of martial arts training, or what to do when you are making a parachute jump - at the moment your feet touch the ground. I had to learn to allow her to do 'what she needed to do.' I limit my involvement now to saying, "Do you want me to do anything, old bean?" and just staying with her until she rights herself and we both know that there is no fundamental damage done.

Drives her poor husband, who also has MS, bonkers.

For some reason, your post reminds me of when I was pregnant and people just assumed somehow that I would be perfectly OK with them coming up to me and putting their hands - or, on one memorable occasion, their EAR! - on my distended belly.

Nothing like what you describe of course, but still.

incurable hippie said...

Lozzie, I think the pregnancy thing is very similar actually. Lots of pregnant friends have told me about people doing exactly that, and it's such an inappropriate thing for anyone to do!

Interesting to hear about your friend, too. Sounds like between you, you've come up with a good way of coping with things.

Claire said...

This is so awful, how can anyone think that's an OK thing to do? Luckily I guess most people don't...if even one person sees this post who might have been thinking behaving in that way was a good idea, then you have done some good!

Also YakTraks look so cool! Wish I had had some a few weeks ago! I might invest in some, this is sure to not be the only time when it is icy.

Ironically I think the roads were actually worse to walk on today than they have been for the last week or so- all that weird slush falling from the sky has made it very slippy.

Mary said...

Ouch, too true. It's nice that people want to help, but things like this are the Opposite Of Help!

Last summer I had my first wheelchair-grab. I was out with my newly-acquired PA and had explained that if she held the heavy cafe door open, I could self-propel to the outside world.

I pushed forwards and suddenly a painful jolt went up both hands/wrists/arms/shoulders as my chair unexpectedly halted. So I held on to the wheels tighter so that I wouldn't move while I twisted around to see what I'd got caught on - and at that moment the person who'd grabbed my chair pushed enthusiastically forwards, thus jerking my arms in the opposite direction. My upper body was, if you'll excuse the term, utterly buggered for the rest of the day.