How much help is too much for a disabled person who wants to be independent? And when does not helping someone out become rude and inconsiderate?
Those are questions that come to mind when we meet someone in the community who uses a wheelchair to get around, or who may be blind or vision impaired.
Nancy Bentley, director of Active Re-Entry Independent Living Programs, has some simple advice: "The number one rule is to just ask, 'Can I help you?'" It is an easy rule to follow and eliminates a lot of uncertainty when and how to help.
"It's a matter of common courtesy. For example, it is polite to open a door for someone, whether they're using a wheel chair or not," she explains. The person in the wheelchair is likely to be even more appreciative of the courtesy. That's because not all doors are automatic. It is not a simple task for someone in a wheelchair to hold a door open while navigating the chair through the doorway.
Another thing that is particularly annoying to persons with disabilities is when people don't talk directly to them. For example, it is thoughtless to ask Tom's companion, "How is Tom doing?" when Tom is sitting right there. It is also good policy to talk to adults as adults, without being patronizing, Bentley says.
She adds there's no need to die of embarrassment for using a common phrase like, "see you later" when saying goodbye to a blind person. It is irksome, though, to focus on the disability rather than the person, or use words like "victim" or "afflicted" when talking to or about someone.
Also, do not pet, feed or distract service animals like seeing eye dogs. They are workers with an important job
Bentley says Active Re-Entry staff are available to talk with individuals and groups about the etiquette of dealing with the disabled, and how to make buildings and surroundings more accessible.
Blind or visually impaired persons and their family members are encouraged to attend a presentation on the latest assistive technology Nov. 8 at Active Re-Entry, 10 S. Fairgrounds Rd.
The demonstrations by the Division of Service for the Blind and Visually Impaired runs from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m.
RSVP by calling Active Re-Entry at 637-4950.