How Do I Politely Ask a Disabled Person If They Need Help?

Jul 06, 2018

Anonymous asks, quote:

Hi, I’m mostly able bodied (Tourette Syndrome, but aside from the times it screws up by breathing, I don’t really consider it a disability) I was wondering what would be the most respectful way to offer help to someone if the location isn’t the most accessible. I don’t want to be rude or intrusive out of ignorance, you know?

end quote.

The answer is fairly straight forward:

  1. Ask politely. Example: “Is there anything I can do to help?”
  2. Accept “no” as an answer the first time. Don’t try and follow up with “are you sure?”. That’s annoying.
  3. If the answer is “no”, don’t try to make awkward conversation about the perceived difficulty of whatever it is they’re doing. If you’re on a steep hill and walking next to them, don’t comment on how steep the hill is or how strong they must be for getting up it by themselves. Conversation like this is really awkward and can feel insulting.

If the lack of accessibility is truly something you want to see fixed, donate to advocacy groups for the disabled (e.g., ADAPT) and vote for people and policies that help out disabled folk.