People that have disabilities are just like everyone else – we want and need to get around our community and stores, and communicate, and enjoy life! You can help make life a little easier just by being considerate and knowing ways to help.
Let me tell you a little more about myself.
There’s something I haven’t mentioned yet, and that is the fact that I have cerebral palsy and get around using a power wheelchair. I have a startle reflex, so when I’m around noises or when someone coughs or sneezes, it usually makes me jump. I have a standing frame wheelchair that allows me to get into a standing position to be able to do my boxing, but more importantly to take the pressure off my butt and to get weight-bearing for my muscles and bones. If we humans don’t get weight-bearing every day, we will lose both muscle and bone mass.
My family or Personal Care Assistant (PCA) helps me with dressing, bathing, tooth brushing, going to the bathroom, shaving and transfers. I can feed myself finger foods and also with a fork, but need help with food preparation including cutting food and feeding with a spoon.
I use one finger to access my laptop where I go on the internet, send emails, and use Facebook. I use the Co-Writer program for word prediction when I type so it ends up saving me keystrokes. It just takes me longer. I can also use my Play Station 4. We have an Alexa device at home and it understands my speech pretty well so I can use it to call or text my brother and mom.
Here are some simple tips to keep in mind to be helpful for individuals with disabilities.
- Don’t park in van accessible areas next to handicapped parking spots.
My family has a wheelchair van so I can get out into the community. We often face the frustration of someone parking in the van accessible spot with their car. These spaces are meant for wheelchair vans because they need more room for the side ramp to open and close. Not a day goes by when we come out of a store and someone has parked in the area next to our van that is meant to stay open for our ramp. We cannot leave until that person comes out. The state needs to mark these spots with wheelchair van parking only signs and also enforce the fines for people who wrongly park in these spaces.
2. Offer assistance in opening doors
Getting in and out of places of business is a big challenge for someone driving a power wheelchair like me. Large stores like Walmart, Target and most supermarkets have automatic doors. Most other places do not have a button to press to get a door to open. Most stores and restaurants have two sets of doors you need to get through and often not enough room to maneuver in between them. If I didn’t have someone with me to help hold the doors open, I wouldn’t be able to get into most places. By offering assistance opening doors, you can be very helpful.
3. When speaking with a person with speech difficulties, consciously listen, be patient, and don’t interrupt. If you need to, ask them to repeat what has been said.
My speech is affected by cerebral palsy. I can get a deep breath, but it is hard for me to control it when talking, so I need to take more pauses for breath so people understand me better.
I hope these tips are helpful to keep in mind. You can make a huge difference in the lives of people with disabilities just by being considerate.
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Great tip about opening doors to people who can’t do it themselves. My grandma has a hard time walking around and needs help with lots of things. I’ll have to get her a scooter so that she doesn’t have so much hip pain.