Disability 101: Are you really willing to help?
July 21, 2008
You say you want to help, but how willing are you really? When I’m out in the community you bombard me with offers to push my wheelchair, open the door, or reach the item on a high shelf. You want to be friendly to my guide dog or help me across the street. You want to donate to Jerry’s Kids or to the MS Walk.
But do you really want to help or do you just want to help if it’s convenient? What if the help I need is something a bit more difficult? What if the help I need is not convenient, in fact, it’s darn hard?
Are you willing to bring me hot dinners, because I am too exhausted to cook for myself? Are you willing to help me clean my house, because I am not able to manage cleaning on my own? Are you willing to continue doing these things over the long haul because my disability is not temporary and I will continue to need this kind of help for the rest of my life? Or do you just want to help once or twice and leave it at that?
Oh, but the kind of help I need may be much more difficult than even these examples.
If I find myself in a home with tons of stairs and then I start having difficulty walking, are you willing to help me find an accessible home and help me move, because I am totally unable to do it for myself?
If I lose my career because of my disability, and I find myself floundering looking for something I can actually do to make a living and still pay my bills, are you willing to loan me some money until I can get my feet under me? If I need to move to get to a place that has a job I can do and a cost of living I can afford, but I have no money because I lost my career and have medical bills up the gazoo, are you willing to let me live with you for a month or two until I can find a way to make it all work?
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When I tell you this is the kind of help I need, will you listen, will you direct your help toward the things I say I need? Or will you turn it around, ignore my request for the type of help I need, and offer some other kind of help that I really don’t need but which is more convenient for you?
Are you really willing to help or are you going to just suggest I get on social security or food stamps? Newsflash … social security and food stamps are a myth. It’s very difficult to qualify and even if you do, it’s not enough to live on. There aren’t sufficient social service programs to help anymore. That’s an outdated, antiquated notion. But that’s another column.
Are you willing to help by solving the health care crisis? Are you willing to help by understanding that I can’t get quality health care anymore because my $800 a month health insurance premium is not a possibility? Are you willing to get involved in the politics of our country and demand an overhaul of our health care system, our insurance system, our pharmaceutical system, and our social services system? Are you willing to get involved politically and demand changes in our economy so that a person can actually afford to pay rent and buy groceries and gas if they have a full time job?
That’s the kind of help I need. Pushing my wheelchair through the store and reaching the item on the high shelf isn’t quite the issue.
Frisco resident Sandy Lahmann is a disability consultant with Wheels on the Summit. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org .