Philippa Willitts // 11 January 2010
I’ve been told about the phenomenon by various disabled people, but had never experienced it myself until today. The phenomenon of a complete stranger grabbing hold of you without warning, to ‘help’.
Today was the first time I left the house since the snow started. It was a very scary prospect. My walking can be pretty dodgy at the best of times, but amidst ice and snow I just haven’t been able to risk it. But by today I was tearing my hair out. I needed to see something other than my 4 walls. So, yaktrax and woolly hat on, I ventured out.
It was pretty precarious. The city centre pavements were worse than I’d anticipated, but I did most of what I had to do, then waited for my bus home.
It was when the bus arrived that the presumably well-meaning man grabbed me. From behind. By the shoulders. The jumping-out-of-my-skin which resulted was far more likely to make me lose my balance than any amount of ice, and his holding onto my shoulders was hardly going to help with that.
It was only when he said, “Here, let me help you on the bus” that I knew I wasn’t being mugged.
I know, I know, he was only trying to help. But seriously, grabbing a woman from behind is not a good thing to do. It’s inappropriate and way too invasive to personal space. And when that woman has a walking stick, which is perhaps why you’re grabbing her, you’re probably more likely to cause injury than to prevent it.
If you really want to help, just ask. I would have actually appreciated being able to hold onto Mr Grabby’s arm to help me on the bus, had he asked if I needed any help. Don’t presume, don’t grab, don’t force a blind person across the road or a wheelchair user down a kerb. If you ask, and they need help, they’ll tell you what you can do. And you won’t frighten or injure them that way.
(Cross-posted at incurable hippie blog)