“Help will always be given at Hogwarts to those who ask for it.” ― J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
Help! Such a wonderful term, a value that in my opinion must be possessed by us all and should be unconditional. However! Should a line be drawn? If so, then where?
Does “Help” always mean “hand-holding?” How is this related to inclusion?
This is exactly what I am going to talk about in the following post as well as attempt to clarify some other misconceptions that people seem to have about differently abled individuals.
Going by something that has become a tradition on this blog, I will start off with a story.
A few years ago, after I had recently finished my mobility training, I was going out to buy milk alone just to practice as I had pretty much memorised the way to there from my house by then. On my way, I found this man who suddenly stopped me by grabbing my arm, “A Security Guard!” I would assume. He said something along the lines of, “What are you doing?” and I replied telling him nothing but the truth. However, he simply would not believe that I was out there alone kept repeatedly asking the same question over and over and presumably looking around just in case, I had no clue of what was going on. I do not blame him of course; this story is simply a method to demonstrate my views in a practical manner. As I always say many times it’s the lack of knowledge and not ignorance that gets us when trying to be inclusive. In any case after he finally realised that I was indeed correct he started insisting that he take me to the market and back home. I offered some resistance to this but in hindsight, it was probably not enough. I was quite new to this and not as out spoken as I was before about what I believed in. So, I let him which in turn, caused me to lose motivation. On conducting research, I realised that many people were going through the same thing some much more than others and therefore would rarely try to move about by themselves.
This, I think can be a big barrier when trying to be inclusive. Another likely reason why some people may think that differently abled people need some special kind of assistance and extra work needs to be put in when in truth it is not really as bad as we may be inclined to believe.
Let me ask you a question?
What if you were walking down the street and some random person comes rushing out of nowhere? Not watching where he is going quite clearly and knocks you to the ground. Ah! You would get mad, wouldn’t you? I mean I know; I would at least want to give them a piece of my mind.
Now, what if a blind person does the same. I remember once that happened with me, I wasn’t paying attention and crashed into a kid in my school. At first, he got mad but upon realising who I was started apologising profusely. I told him that it wasn’t his fault but he simply wouldn’t have any of it. This is exactly what I mean. Why? Why the distinction? So, what if I can’t see where I am going. I have a pair of perfectly working legs, a cane, and the sense of hearing. It is my responsibility to make sure that I adapt and acclimatize with what I have. Ok, everybody needs to actually be on guard and vigilant especially when walking, but in case something happens on it doesn’t mean that it is entirely the fault of one person because the other was differently abled. As I have always said, inclusion can never be one-sided. It always has to be cooperation and effort from both to make it a reality. Trust me, when you give people this kind of special treatment, keeping all the challenges they go through in mind, it does not make things better for them it instead has a completely opposite effect. You see challenges are in everyone’s life and everyone has a purpose. However, on being treated as if you were ‘different’ or ‘special’ only makes them think that not only do they have personal struggles to overcome, they are also treated unequally to their sighted counterparts. The struggles in one’s own life can be dealt with after hard-work and perseverance however this feeling of being isolated makes one helpless as they really do not know how to fix it. We also enjoy the same things others do, we also love group-study, playing, and believe it or not, ‘GETTING HURT’ while doing so. Which brings me to my other point.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with a blind person getting say… a twisted ankle or a ball to the skull. It’s a game; it happens. Therefore, keeping them out in fear that they would get injured is once again treating them differently which I do not think they are not to this extent. Let them explore, learn, and adapt like anyone else.
Helping just like I said above is a wonderful trait to have but not at the cost of one’s independence. Their stages in everyone’s life where they have to face life head-on, alone. What then? They need to know how to tackle circumstances without guidance and if they are not prepared beforehand and instead rely on assistance offered by others. Isn’t that help doing more harm than good?
Therefore, I think asking whether a differently abled person needs assistance is a better idea than forcing them into it. A wonderful person at the Huntzwil Airport comes to my mind when I visited the US 2 years ago.
I had to go to the washroom. So, I said out loud, “Excuse me? “and this guy, who I did not know at all, walked up to me and said, “Yes sir? Can I help you with anything?” “Yes, I would like to be escorted to the boy’s washroom. Please! I am blind and will need auditory guidance to get there,” I replied. This is exactly what he did and ta-da, I made it in and out in one-piece.
And just because a kid is differently abled, does not mean they have to be bookworms like Hermione Granger, we are allowed to be naughty as well! I urge you to not underestimate and that is of course, unless you wish to be a living witness of the prank of a lifetime or something. Some people also seem to have a misconception that just because differently abled folks lack a particular sense, they have a 6th one to fill-in for it. Short answer is, ‘NO.’ At least, not in my experience. We instead choose to pay more attention to the four that remain, intensifying and amplifying them. If another one did in-fact exist it would be catastrophically diabolically amazingly fun and super, cool, but unfortunately that is not the case.
Before ending, I would like to point you to the following URL which explains some of what I did and a lot more in a way that I probably never could, so please give it a red.
“Give a Man a Fish and You Feed Him for a Day. Teach a Man to Fish and You Feed Him for a Lifetime.”