Today is International Day of Disabled Persons As someone with a plethora of disorders and diseases, I am beyond grateful that there is a day that brings awareness to us, that celebrates us, that empowers us.
One question I receive often: how do I support someone with a disability? What can I say? What can I do? How can I help?
Luckily, there are many ways to be of service to your differently-abled friends. Read on below for some ways you can talk through and support your friends and family—no acrobats required.
1. If you want to go somewhere, and your friends has accessibility needs, find a place that allows them to be comfortable there. For example, if there aren’t any ramps, and your friend can’t climb up steps, it’s a no-go. Ask what they need in advance, then accommodate.
2. Offer to help with chores that are difficult. Sometimes, people with disabilities are embarrassed (or, in my case, too stubborn!) to ask for help. So, gently provide your services. For me, I sometimes need help with cooking dinner, so I am always grateful when a friend or family member comes over and helps me with food on difficult days. Your friends and family will be thankful.
3. Listen. Sometimes, the best thing you can do is hear someone out. Don’t attempt to minimize their feelings or offer advice unless they specifically ask for it. Being differently-abled is difficult in a world where stigma is attached to it. Being a safe space for your friend to vent their frustrations, anxieties, sadness, and any other emotions will help them to process.
4. Address injustice or insults, even when your friend isn’t around. If you’re with somebody who has a disability, and you see or hear someone talking down to them, say something. While people certainly can stand up for themselves, it’s nice to feel that someone is in their corner.
If your friend isn’t around, it’s still important to address these people. They may continue with the bullying behavior, but they’ll have at least had someone point out their ignorance.
There are many ways to help out, but if you’re unsure, just ask your friend or family member. You can’t know what they need if you don’t ask! Be gentle, be kind, and treat them with dignity. They’ll be happy to have an ally.