Hospitality for the Disabled
It can be tricky to avoid doing more harm than good if you see someone with a disability where it looks like they need help. Most of us want to help others, and if you work in hospitality, that is part of your job.
The problem is often you don’t know exactly what is going on as far as what the particular handicap someone is dealing with.
In my experience, I can walk, but not very well. You probably can’t see that my sense of balance is very poor. I carry a cane in my right hand while my left arm is spastic and out of my control.
It might appear I am reaching out for your help with my left hand, but in fact it is just having a spasm. I usually have to ask people to not touch my left arm because doing so might cause me to fall. I feel bad refusing the kindness of strangers, but I often have to for my own safety.
I once was walking down steps of a tour bus in Canada when a young man tried to get his arms under mine to help me down the steps. It didn’t go well. I ended up on my ass on the ground. I was unhurt, but that was just lucky.
The mistake he made was not asking me how I needed help. This is perhaps the biggest key to assisting those with disabilities: Don’t assume you know what to do, and don’t try to be a hero.
I happen to have no shame when it comes to people touching me, but not everyone is like this. Again, don’t assume you can touch people.
This past weekend I had to negotiate a tall step up into an electric cart at a public garden. After my initial attempt to do it by myself, I could tell I wasn’t strong enough. The driver was a young, strong man. He was standing behind me watching the struggle.
When I realized he was smart enough to not jump in to help me, I asked for a boost. At first he seemed embarrassed that he didn’t help, but I specifically told him it was ok to boost me up from behind.
He grabbed me by the waist and gave me just enough of a lift to get me up the step. He apologized for not jumping in by saying he wasn’t sure if it was ok to grab me. I told him he did the right thing by waiting for my instructions.