Please don’t help! - If help is unwanted

Close up of a wheelchair (Albrecht E. Arnold/
Many disabled people do not need help for most of the time (Albrecht E. Arnold/

Disabled people should be allowed to decide for themselves whether they need help or not.

People are aware of the needs of disabled people and want to offer help. But sometimes, this help is not welcomed.

28 year old Jürgen from Germany does not have any problem shopping groceries. Self-confident he wheels through the supermarket daily. But with what he does have a problem are the unwelcomed helpers: “As soon as I enter the supermarket, some shadow approaches and grabs my money to get a shopping cart for me”, Jürgen tells MyHandicap. “If I want this help or not, that doesn’t bother anyone!”

Katja has made similar experience. The young woman is a real pro in daily traffic. However, she feels helpless when unwanted helpers “help” her.

„As soon as a pedestrian sees me close to the road, I just get pushed across the street immediately! They only stop with this forced help if I scream at them or hit their fingers.” A simple “No, thanks” would not do the job, Katja explains.

Respect the autonomy of the other person

For psychologists Tim Glogner it needs understanding and sensitivity on both sides to resolve such situations without conflicts. "Many people only mean it well but sometimes they forget to respect the autonomy of the other person," says Glogner: "Here, communication is needed. If this does not happen, it creates frustration for both parties. "

"It is very important that both sides do something to resolve the conflict," says Mathes Dues, psychologist, actor and director.

"Non-disabled people are often overwhelmed when they meet disabled people. They want to help spontaneously but at the same time they are usually very insecure as they have not much experience in ‘handling’ disabled people." The disabled person feels demoted when he/she is pushed around uninvited or is patronised by others.

First ask, then help

A non-disabled person should always first ask if his/her help is welscome, Mathes Dues explains. "When an elderly lady is towing with their shopping bags, I obviously don’t just tear the bags out of her hands; I first ask politely if I can help."

The person with the disability on the other hand should have some understanding for the insecurity of the others. If he/she does not want any help, should thank the person politely but make it clear that help is not wanted or needed. A “Thank you for offering your help but I am quite fine and don’t need your help” should do the job.

However, if he/she needs help, clear instructions on how to help and to what degree should be given. Glogner says: "It is important that the helper asks in advance what the disabled person can do alone, what he/she wants to try himself, even though it may go slowly.

Text: MBE

Translation: MPL