17th January 2019
A Twitter storm has highlighted the problems facing disabled people when “well-wishers” decide to impose a helping hand and often do more harm than good.
The experience of Bronwyn Berg as reported by the BBC triggered nearly 65,000 likes and 20,000 retweets after she told how a stranger took control of her wheelchair.
Other wheelchair-users were quick to support Bronwyn in trying to get the message out that it’s not okay for someone to just assume a disabled people needs help. It can often be unwelcome interference.
Bronwyn told on Twitter how her ordeal became worse when passers-by ignored her as she screamed for help after the stranger grabbed her chair.
She said: “A guy grabbed my wheelchair today and just started pushing me, not a single passer-by helped even though I was screaming for help.”
She added: “The way people looked away when I was calling for help makes me feel a lot less safe in the world.”
Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson took to Twitter to describe the episode as “awful and scary” and there was more support from others who told how they had experienced similar intrusions.
Carrie-Ann Lightley, who runs a blog about accessible tourism, tweeted: “Happens to me a lot at Euston Station. Pushing myself up the long ramp from the platforms when assistance is delayed. I may *look* like I’m struggling but that’s just how I push! People just grab my handles without asking/speaking to me.”
She told the BBC: “It makes me feel like society doesn’t see me as an independent person, a young woman travelling, working and in a rush to get to places just like everyone else – they see me as someone who must be struggling.”
One Twitter user told how terrifying it is to be grabbed from behind when they are not able to turn round and see who is there.
Other wheelchair-users told the BBC that after challenging such actions they have been branded ungrateful and even “bitter” and “horrible”.
Carrie-Ann summed up the etiquette around offering assistance to disabled people – rather than imposing it on them – accepting that kindness makes the world a better place but suggesting that people should always ask before touching her wheelchair.
Here’s a link to her blog: www.carrieannlightley.com
17th January 2019