a disabled person with a prosthetic arm being helped by another pereson who is holding the hand of the prosthetic arm. The person is about the attach the arm to the prosthetic

Assisting a Disabled person: My 8 unique tips.

Hello everyone! Happy Monday! I hope you are all doing well!

This week’s post is a request from a reader!

 I was asked, ‘what is the best way to assist a disabled person and to do so without sounding rude?’

I am sure you have all been out at one point in time and have seen someone struggle to do something. You probably thought that you should ask them if they are ok. However, at the last minute you decide not to. It may be because you worry that you will make the person feel uncomfortable. Or it may be out of not wanting to say the wrong thing.

So, today’s blog post is all about how to approach a disabled person the right way. Especially when it comes to you asking them if they need help.

My Experience

To be honest, when I was asked to write about this topic, it made me stop and think about my experiences.

I sat on the couch in front of the fire with a hot cup of tea and reflected upon the times that I was out and about. Especially the times when I possibly could have needed a helping hand.

For example, I tend to have difficulty reaching the lower and upper shelves of the grocery aisles. But let’s be honest, many of us have issues reaching a shelf! If you are 6 foot then reaching the top shelf is easy, but the lower shelf is always a stretch. Yes, pun intended.

This is the opposite for someone like me who is vertically challenged, barely scraping into the 5-foot column.  I also have tight tendons in my arms, which makes it impossible to straighten my arms over my head to reach things two shelves above.  It really is not worth risking a bag of flour landing on my head which may have been hilarious for everyone else, but not so much for me. Concussion by flour… Yeah no thank you.

To be honest when I am out in public I do not usually get asked if I need help. This could be looked at in two ways. One, I am mostly with my family, so they help me.  Two, maybe it’s because when you are in a wheelchair you are not in the direct eyeline of everyone. So, you tend to feel slightly invisible. This does have its advantages, especially if you are having a bad hair day or have food stuck in your teeth!


The situation is completely different when it comes to my workplace. I am so fortunate to be able to say I work with some incredibly caring people.  Reflecting on the question at hand, ‘how to offer help’, I thought long and hard about how my work colleagues ask if I need assistance.

They never sound frustrated or annoyed by the task. They genuinely sound happy to offer me assistance, and this alone eases any self-defeating conversations in my head.

So, having that in mind, here are some things that you can do when asking someone if they need a hand!

Tip 1: Common Courtesy is key.

Photo by Lisa Fotios from Pexels

Common Courtesy always rules in life regardless of if you are disabled or not. If you see someone following you, you hold the door for them as well. Or if someone is entering a lift, you hold the lift door for them. It is simply common courtesy.  

The best things about my workplace is my colleagues just open doors for me when I am in my scooter without any need for discussion or asking questions. 

They simply just say “oh let me get that”. No question asked. Just a simple statement.

It personally makes me feel seen and better yet, understood!!

I also had a colleague rush out to meet my Uber Eats delivery because they parked out the back instead of the accessible front carpark. It would have taken me more than a few minutes to navigate my way to the driver.

The fact that he said nothing and ran to get my lunch meant the world. It was like he knew that I would struggle to get there in time, so he just grabbed it for me.

So, the biggest take way here is always use common courtesy. The fact that you are so willing to go out of your way to help someone is the best trait you can have. It will also make the person feel like they don’t have to keep asking for help themselves.

Tip 2: Approach gently and casually.

A lot of people can come across short when asking someone if they require assistance. Or they may not say anything and help with a huff, puff and an eyeroll before stalking off.

So, ensure that you approach the person in a way that is not confrontational.   Remember the person you are about to offer assistance could be experiencing negative thoughts such as being a burden to others.

When I say approach gently, I mean be super casual about it. Simply by starting off with a smile, saying ‘hi, how are you’ and by making eye contact, will most certainly break the ice.

This is especially important if someone may be either visually or hearing impaired. You would not want to freak the person out if they cannot hear or see you coming their way!  So, it is important to make yourself known to them and remember kindness is key in every situation.

Tip 3: It is all about how you ask.

Photo by Matthias Zomer from Pexels

The next step is now actually asking if someone needs a hand! This is the scary part. Purely because you do not know how they will react to you. It is the unknown that scares all of us right!

For me personally the best way would be to say, “hey mate, can I help you with that?”. Did you notice how I did not say the word ‘need’?  This is because if you say ‘do you need help’ it feels cold and may make a person feel like a hindrance. It may even make them think you are doing it ‘because you need to’.

Your tone of voice is always important. You do not want to use the tone of voice that you use when talking to your pet dog.  You know the one…. that high pitch ‘baby talk’ that we all are guilty of!  Nor do you want to use the tone of voice used when scolding your children or in some cases your parents! 

Yep, guilty of the later one, but how many times do you need to tell them to update their technology!  You need to be like Goldilocks and find one just the right one. A happy medium I think would work perfectly. Oh, and don’t sound like you are sympathetic or sad towards someone’s situation.  There is a big difference between sympathy and empathy!

Asking in a confident, respectful, and genuine way makes all the difference. Trust me.

Tip 4: Do not be offended if your offer is declined.

No-one knows how others will react when you ask if you can be of assistance.

A person may be caught off guard as it may be the first time someone has offered them help!  The key here is to not get angry. Yes, you may feel hurt that they did not take you up on your offer of assistance.  Yes, you may now be running late to an important meeting.  However, remember that asking is always a positive thing.

So please do not be offended if they get short with you.  I know that sounds like double standards but let me explain.

Depending on where they are on their ‘disabled journey’ will certainly impact on how someone reacts to the offer of help from strangers.  Initially they may be taken aback by it or they may be simply shocked.   Perhaps they are still struggling with accepting their condition, especially if they have recently been diagnosed.   Imagine going from a completely independent person, so someone having to learn life all over again.  Watching someone perform tasks for you that you previously never thought twice about is very confronting and takes time to adjust to.

So, if someone’s response is abrupt, do not take it personally.

Tip 6:  If grocery shopping… ask if they need a hand with anything else.

Photo by Mehrad Vosoughi from Pexels

If you are grocery shopping, and it appears someone is really struggling, do not just help once and leave. They may need a hand with more than just one item.

So I suggest before leaving them simply say “would you like me to help you grab anything else” or even better yet “I have my groceries to do, how about we do them together?”  I respect that not everyone would feel comfortable offering this level of assistance but showing someone this amount of compassion and understanding goes along way. 

If someone said this to me, that would honestly make my day. I do my grocery shopping with my lovely mum. We both grab a trolley, and usually go isle by isle together, or I just leave what I can’t reach until I find her again. It is the best way to have some independence whilst shopping. As I say independence is key.  

If a trolley is too heavy for me with a full shop in it, I need mum to help me steer it. This leaves me no option but to shop with someone. Do not get me wrong, the mother-daughter time is awesome. However, having confidence that people around me would help if I got stuck, would mean I could shop more independently. This would be incredible!!

Tip 7: Do it for the right reasons.

One of the most important tips is exactly this.

When you ask someone if they need help, make sure you are doing it for the right reasons!

 I say this because if you are doing it ‘because I have to’ or ‘I have better stuff to do but I better help’ you are doing it for the wrong reasons. Or if you think you will get acknowledgement for it, again you are doing it for the wrong reasons.

Offering help to someone should make you feel good about yourself! It all comes down to a simple thing. Respect. I live by the motto; ‘treat others the way you want to be treated’.

If you were the one struggling to open doors or reaching the Sushi Rice on the bottom shelf, would you want someone to come and help you?

So, all in all make sure you are doing it for the right reasons. If you are not happy about offering help, it shows on your face. Chances are you will make the person feel worse about needing assistance.

Tip 8: Something for the disabled community.

This tip is more so for my people….my disabled friends.

Unfortunately, we live in a world where people will not help you unless you ask directly.

Although through this blog post, I hope this will change a little. However, in the meantime, it is crucial to ask for help when you need it.  More importantly it is crucial to feel okay with asking for help.  It is not a sign of weakness, but rather a sign of strength that you are in control of your life!

People are not mind readers. Even though you think it may be obvious that you need help, it may not be to them. It would be fantastic if we could read each other’s minds….then again, maybe not??

So, if you are truly struggling reaching the Sushi rice on the bottom shelf, or the packet of frozen Potato Gems, simply ask, “I am really sorry to bother you, but you do you think you can help me?”.

If you haven’t noticed already, I am a massive fan of Sushi!

Remember the same tips above applies to you too. Remember to approach nicely, without attitude, and do not get offended if some people come across rude.

If they huff and puff, but still offer assistance say “thank you. I am sorry this caused inconvenience”.

If you make it obvious you noticed their distain to help, it may just make them change their tune.

Remember at the end of the day, there is no shame in asking for help.

To be honest, this section is something I am still working on to this day.

I am always worried about how people will react. I hate conflict, and I hate feeling like I am disrupting people. So it is easier for me to just struggle until someone asks. Usually, I get the whole ‘stop hinting and just ask!’. Believe me I am not hinting (not always at least), I am simply scared to ask!!

Remember:We all need to work together at this.

Picture: Pexels

In closing, it is crucial to work together. Teamwork is always the best way to do things.

So, for those people who see someone struggling to walk across the road, reach grocery items or lift heavy bags, please just offer to help. Some will be offended, but to others, it will make their day. It is always a fine line because everyone is different.

Never underestimate what a simple offer of help can do for someone’s mental health. In a time where some disabled people feel ‘less than’ and a ‘burden’ to those around them, being offered help (or even just offering conversation) is critical.

Isn’t the first step in everything just simply communicating?

Who knows, you may make a new friend in the process and this would be a win, win for everyone involved!!

I hope you are all well.

Until next week,


Disclaimer: These are my tips based on my experiences, and how I would liked to be asked if I need assistance. Not everyone will feel the same way about being asked if they need assistance. Everyone’s preferences are different, and I completely respect that. If you have any other tips on this topic, please let us know!

Read my other post about my tips and trips to crush disabled life here: https://livingabled.com.au/disabled-into-abled-quirky-tips-and-tricks/

2 thoughts on “Assisting a Disabled person: My 8 unique tips.”

  1. Linda Apelt

    Another very good read. I certainly learn so much from reading your articles .
    We are never too old to learn sonething new. .

  2. Pingback: How to: The best ways to ask someone about their disability - Living Abled

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