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4 Steps for Asking for Help as a Wheelchair User

Posted by ROLAND REZNIK on October 18, 2015. 0 Comments

Wheelchair users are highly independent and manage to get through their daily routine just fine. However, there are those moments when you truly do just need some help. Asking family members for help isn’t too much of a hassle, they are usually happy to give you a hand. But what happens when you are stuck trying to reach something off the top shelf at the grocery store or the building you are trying to enter does not open automatically? You feel vulnerable and forced to ask a stranger to assist you.

There is an art to asking for help from strangers that will allow you to remain confident and in control as well as be respectful to the person who is providing the help. As a wheelchair user there surely has been times when you have had people offer assistance when you really didn’t need it, so this proves people are willing to help at any moment. It’s just getting the courage to ask for help that seems to bother some wheelchair users. The following 4 easy steps will help you find your voice and ask for help when needed as a wheelchair user.

1. Change Your Perspective

Asking for help doesn’t forfeit your independence. Truthfully it is just the architecture of the building or the fact that doors don’t open automatically or your favorite item is on the top shelf at the grocery store that is causing the issue. Just because you have to ask for help doesn’t mean you are not independent.

To change your perspective, think about a non-wheelchair user. Sometimes they may be carrying bags and are not able to open a door by themselves because their hands are full. Usually a stranger will just notice it as they pass by and they will just open the door without the even asking. Are they giving up their independence by accepting help from a stranger? Even if they ask a stranger to open the door for them, they are human and just need a brief favor. The same goes for wheelchair users. When it is time to ask for help, think of it as just a brief favor. You will be surprised to learn that many strangers are happy to help.

2. Be Confident

Exuding confidence helps you get past your nervousness and empowers you to take control of the situation. When you express yourself with pride, it lowers the risk of strangers feeling pity for you. When you represent yourself proudly and look past your disability you will find that strangers don’t make a big deal out of helping you. They just help you as they would anyone else.

Speaking confidently doesn’t mean shouting or sounding stern, it means you are not making a big deal out of the situation. The way you ask for help is essential to the way you will feel when receiving the help. For example, if you ask for help with a shy voice and stutter as if you are scared, the immediate reaction of the person will be “oh, poor thing.” This is the pity party you are trying to avoid.

When asking for help, stay yourself. Meaning, if you have a casual personality, you can easily say “hi buddy, can you help me real quick?” This approach informs the stranger that their help is only needed quickly and you are confident and a cool person.

If you find that you are in a business situation you will want to ask professionally. For example, using “Excuse me Sir or Mam, Can you open the door for me please?” You have to gage the situation, the environment and the type of person you are addressing. If someone is wearing a business suit and walking in front of your office building then you may not want to use “hey bro or hey dude.” Below are excellent ways to ask for help, depending on the situation.

  • Excuse me, Can you please help me with the door?
  • Hi, can you please grab that can of fruit from the top shelf for me?
  • Excuse me sir, or mam, may I ask for your help with something for just a moment?

These polite ways to ask for help can be used in a variety of different situations. The way you express yourself makes all the difference. You may be surprised that some people may even comment or become acutely aware of the obstacles wheelchair users have to face on a daily basis. You may even hear them tell you things like “they really should install automatic doors” or, “they really should place items where everyone is able to reach them.”

3. Never Sound Apologetic

This doesn’t mean to be rude. It just means to use a tone of voice that doesn’t sound embarrassed to ask for help. It’s not like you purposely go to all of the buildings in town that don’t have automatic doors and stay outside of it all day asking for help. Everyone needs help from time to time, whether in a wheelchair or not.

4. Thank You

Respect is essential when saying thank you. But you don’t have to go wild and thank the person abundantly. Just a quick “thanks” or “thank you,” “I appreciate your help” should do.

Once you realize that asking for help is something that everyone has to do at one point in their lifetime, it will become easier for you. Generally people are happily willing to help at any moment. Just think of all the strangers who ask you for help when you really don’t need it.

Unfortunately there are some people who are just rude, or they are so wrapped up in their little world that they ignore your request and even say something rude or respond by saying they don’t have time. You will come across these people sometimes. Try not to take it to heart and just move on to another person who seems like they are in a better mood. Surprisingly, when onlookers see the response of rude strangers, they instinctively step in and help you. This is not out of pity for you, it is out of embarrassment of the non-wheelchair part of the human race.

Don’t let the fact that you may need help from time to time cause you to avoid going places. Get out there and be confident! Let your personality shine through and ask for help whenever you need it. Ignore the rude strangers, thank the helpful ones and move forward with your day!

Lightweight folding power wheelchair from KD Smart Chair.

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