It’s ok to help us but please don’t baby us.

As I type this, it’s another beautiful day here in Ottawa. It finally feels like Spring or Summer if any of you were outside last week. I managed to enjoy the sun a few times last week after training two more caregivers.

My favourite time of year is Spring and Summer. During these times, I can go out more freely without relying on Para Transpo, or other forms of public transit. Living downtown does have its perks.

Speaking of warmer weather, one thing that I love to do is to be in the sun. I’ve always loved the sun. For a lot of us, we start to look like zombies during the long winter months. Needless to say, as soon as the sun’s out and it starts to warm up, I’m out the door.

I’ve noticed something, though. It’s not something new. It’s been happening for several years.

Over the many years that I’ve been an adult, I’ve had strangers approach some of my caregivers, telling them that I should be wearing a hat or sunscreen. They’re telling my caregiver that they’re doing a lousy job of caring for me and that I’m getting a sunburn.

In most cases, my caregiver or I will politely tell the person that I’m fully aware of the risks and that I’m the one that decides if I’d like to wear a hat or sunscreen. After that, we typically depart and laugh about it. A few occasions have been where a stranger will want to argue about it and even start yelling at my caregiver.

While I appreciate the person’s concern to a degree, there’s no need to do it. Personally speaking, as well as for many others with disabilities, we are very capable of directing our care and speaking for ourselves. In this case, if I wanted to wear a hat or sunscreen, I’d simply tell my caregiver. Also, if I wanted to reapply sunscreen, I’d tell my caregiver as well.

I realize that not all PWD have a caregiver with them 24/7, so their situation may differ slightly. In those cases, a gentler approach would be more appropriate. For example, you could ask the PWD respectfully if they’re ok, or something to that effect.

For me, though, if you’re able to see that a person’s with me, just know that they’re there to help me follow my instructions.

Speaking of help, I do want to mention that many PWD, including myself, really appreciate the little things.

Things like:

  • Holding a door open.
  • Reaching or picking up items that we can’t reach.
  • Pushing an elevator button or door opening button.
  • Offering us your seat on an OC Transpo bus or on the LRT.
  • Lifting a seat on OC Transpo bus or on the LRT, so we have room.
  • Take the stairs when you can.
  • Please be patient and understanding if it takes us a few extra moments with a cashier or elsewhere. We’re trying.
  • If you see a PWD near you or trying to get by you, be respectful. If you need to move, don’t make it into a show or a big deal. It isn’t.

There are many other things that you can do. A kind, helpful gesture can mean a lot, especially for people with disabilities.

One thing that I try to tell others is to please be kind and understanding. In one way or another, we’re all fighting a battle.

As more places slowly reopen and the weather gets nicer, more of us will be heading outdoors. What better way to welcome us back than with a bit of kindness and understanding?