When to Help a Vision-Impaired Person …
And When Not To!
Sometimes vision impaired people want help and sometimes they don’t. How will you know?
Politely ask–but then respect the answer.
As with anyone else, variables enter into it–personality, how much vision a person has, at what point he or she is in training, what the person is attempting to do, even the mood that day.
I’m always glad to receive help when I’m lost. Or when I’m carrying dinner downstairs. Or when I’m in the shopping center and can’t find what I want.
But there are definitely those times when I want to go it on my own.
Like with my peers.
It was nearly the end of the school year when I gave my talk about vision loss to the rest of the faculty and our students during the Chapel period.
Right away the teachers became more solicitous. As I feared, they started to do things for me–things I formerly did myself.
It irked me. I felt ill-at-ease.
School let out. We finished the ceremony for our graduating seniors but I still had the reception to get through yet. I sat down at a faculty table and chatted. Not long after, a teacher coughed. “Dry throat here. I hear a sparking glass of punch calling my name.”
“Me, too,” I agreed, eyeing the table on the other side of the room.
“I’ll get you one,” she offered immediately. “Do you want a piece of cake while I’m up?”
“Thanks so much. I need some exercise myself, though.”
I jumped up as if I had energy to run marathons.
“Here, hold onto my arm.” She held out her arm, bent at the crook of her elbow.
That was the correct way to be a sighted guide.
I understood that she wanted to help me. She clearly had good intentions. But, for me, accepting help was new and a little unwelcome.
I recalled how my niece, as a toddler, used to play with a wind-up wooden duck. She’d place it on the kitchen floor and watch it go, clapping her tiny hands when it ran into a chair or the leg of a table. She’d run and retrieve it for me to wind up again.
Perhaps the faculty now viewed me as that wind-up duck. Maybe they thought if they didn’t point me in the right direction or if they let me go, I’d run into something and spin my webbed feet.
I couldn’t explain this to my colleague, of course, so I simply took her arm. We stopped to greet parents a few times on the way to the punch table. During those interludes, I had a strange desire to quack.
“How about this piece? Or would you like a corner slice? It has more frosting.” Without waiting for my decision, she picked up the corner piece and steered me toward the punch bowl. She released my arm long enough to pour glasses of punch for both of us but took it again.
“Let me help,” I offered, taking my glass of punch. But holding onto someone made me jerky and my hand with the cup tilted slightly and drops of punch tipped out, leaving a splotchy trail all the way back to our table.
I hoped no one saw that it was me. Not a good duck!
“There you go, m’dear,” my colleague said, depositing me nicely beside the chair.
I sat down and took stock of my punch. Half a glass. I sloshed it around in the glass and took a sip. Still cold. The ginger ale gave it a light bubbly flavor. With my finger, I stirred the dollop of melting sherbet, and took another sip. I picked up my fork and tasted a piece of the white cake. The corner piece had twice as much frosting on it. That was actually a good choice.
Suddenly, I recalled the trail of punch leading “home.” Craning my neck, I strained to see how incriminating it might be. By now, feet had trampled and fanned it out. I covered my mouth and giggled when I realized it looked a lot like a duck actually walked through it with its webbed feet.
“Quack. Quack,” I whispered to myself.
A good rule of thumb is: if a vision-impaired person looks like he or she needs help, ask. If it’s “yes,” certainly do help. If the answer is “no,” respect that answer and don’t insist.
You have just read, “When to Help a Vision-Impaired Person … and When Not To,” by Amy L. Bovaird. Copyright July 9, 2015. Excerpt from Mobility Matters: Stepping Out in Faith. To purchase this book, click HERE
How are you about accepting help? Do you welcome it or do you tend to be more independent? How about offering?