Tuesday, 9 May 2017

"The things we do for disabled people"

This blog is me trying to process a conversation I had earlier.

Today a chap from a UK company called me, trying to solve a communication issue that they weren't familiar with for a young girl living half way round the world.

It wasn't an issue that our products are designed for, but I could point him in the right direction. It was nice to be able to help.

I was thinking to myself how nice it was to randomly help someone to help a random stranger who was struggling with an issue 1000's of miles away.

And just before we ended the call he commented:

"The things we do for disabled people!"

I could practically hear the eye-roll. And the 'aren't we nice for doing this for them'.

Now I totally get that this was a really random chain of people trying to find help for a total stranger when the solutions weren't in our spheres of expertise.

"The things we do for total strangers!" - Oh yep, definitely. It is very random the things we sometimes do for strangers. Or even "The times we go way beyond our job description!" Definitely.

But it wasn't. It was "The things we do for disabled people!"

I didn't respond because I was blindsided. And that was the end of the conversation.

I am a disabled person. Am I such a burden that anyone trying to help me solve the multiple accessibility issues I face can be expected to eye-roll?

Helping a disabled person get access to basic communication is not eye-roll worthy, it's an obviously necessary and important thing. Sure, it can take effort. And it might not be my job. But trust me: the effort of the 'helper' rarely exceeds the effort and frustration of the disabled person trying to cope with the lack of access they have. I spent 2 minutes on the phone helping that child. Perhaps that chap on the phone had spent a couple of hours researching. But the girl who had no effective communication - she's having to try and resolve this 24/7, trying to find a way to make herself understood.

By all means remark on the extraordinary links the internet has enabled. And the random enquiries that businesses can get that mean we end up going way outside our roles to investigate.

By all means say 'I'm sorry, I can't help with that' when you get an enquiry you can't help with.

But don't make the mistake of thinking that helping create access for a disabled person is a tedious task you are heroic for doing. Because that, quite frankly, is insulting.


  1. If we are able/enabled to help anyone anywhere, I think we all should. Although I now use an electric chair, I do always have sticks to hand. When I walked with sticks, I was amazed at how many people, often elderly walk with worn out ferrules on their sticks, meaning of course no grip. So I started carrying a spare ferrule/s with me. They cost very little but may save someone from falling.

  2. My husband is disabled and he does more for me than the other way around. He is my rock and support. Yes he's blind and.... he's lifted me in my darkest moments do sure I have to do some things for him but we have been married a very long time. I pity him because I'm hard to live with not because he's blind. He days it's made him a better person.

  3. Sorry for the typos there's a box floating on my screen that I can't see around DOH

  4. I would also like attitudes to change so that disability was seen in the same way as race, sex or gender – just an everyday difference rather than an inconvenience that has to be managed by companies, corporations and institutions.
    I want disabled people to be involved (not represented but representing themselves) at all levels of responsibility. The old adage of “nothing about us without us” still isn’t utilised enough in my opinion.


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