Good Samaritans: What to Do When People Stop to Help - The Mobility Resource

When we first moved to Raleigh, I began exploring a series of walking paths through town as a way to get from one area of the city to another. Since I wasn’t familiar with the entrances and exits, one summer day I ventured down a new path to discover it ended in a neighborhood I didn’t recognize.

On this particular afternoon, a summer storm passed through, and I was caught unprepared.

Some neighbors came out with an umbrella because they felt sorry for me. They insisted on holding an umbrella over me while I waited for Megan to arrive. I appreciated their help, but what I really wanted to do was to explore where I was so I could get my bearings.

At that time, we didn’t have an accessible van, and there was some discussion about how to get me home. The neighbors standing over me offered the use of their truck, and Megan backtracked to pick up our portable ramp. By the time she came back, the storm had passed, and I walked home in the sunshine.

Well-meaning Samaritans stop to help, but sometimes their help can become inconvenient. It can even be unnerving to have someone you don’t know stop, and there have been times when the intentions may not have been the best.

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How do you respond to Samaritans who stop when you don’t need their help? Here are some options for you to explore:

  1.      A Polite “No Thanks.”
    If the help that is offered is not helpful, you don’t have to take it. The most simple response is a polite and direct response “No thanks.”
  2.      Demonstrate Your Ability
    Sadly, many assumptions about people with disabilities still exist in many cultures. Demonstrate your ability of what you can do.
  1.      When You Need to Push Back
    Some people can’t take no for an answer or they may have good intentions and be genuinely concerned about your health and safety. There may be times when you need to push back and be assertive about the help you do and do not need.
  1.      Distance and Personal Space
    Think about a bubble. Each person has what they deem personal space. And when someone gets in your personal space that you don’t want to be there, it can be uncomfortable. Be clear about your boundaries.
  1.      Walking Away
    Sometimes you need to disengage. Do not feel guilty or bad if you need to walk or roll away from a samaritan.

 Over the years, I’ve had a number of people ask if they can help me, whether it’s picking up groceries or crossing the street. I’ve assessed each situation differently, but always keep my safety and needs in mind. 

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