Offering help to someone in need is lauded as a great and noble gesture.
Often, it is.
However, helping someone is dependent on their willingness to be helped.
Especially when that help requires you to invade their personal space.
Now what happens when someone insists on helping and your reaction to that assistance is less grateful than they believe they deserve?
That was the issue facing Redditor and Original Poster (OP) Divisionten when she came to the “Am I the A**hole” (AITA) subReddit for judgment.
“AITA for screaming at a family in the mall?”
OP dove right into the situation at hand.
“I’m 35, Female and legally blind and walk with a white cane.”
“I was walking by myself in the mall with my headphones on (just loud enough to enjoy my music but not enough to not hear my surroundings) when someone grabs my arm.”
“Sadly, this is normal for me.”
“I get a lot of people who think they’re being nice or steering me. It’s not nice. It’s not kind. I have a cane for a reason.”
“I usually politely but firmly say I don’t want help and keep walking.”
“However this person grabbed me a lot more forcefully than normal, and I panicked so I screamed at the absolute top of my lungs ‘DON’T (bleep)ING TOUCH ME.”’
“I really thought someone was trying to snatch my purse. I ripped my arm out of his grip and, while I didn’t run, started power-walking away.”
OP even discussed the aftermath of her actions.
“The person, a man, gets furious at me and shouts back he was only trying to teach his kid how to help a ‘cripple’ and how dare I curse.”
“I fled into Hot Topic and cried.”
“The sales people hid me for a few moments while I calmed down.”
OP wasn’t sure if she’d gone too far.
“I know I made a scene and probably got him in trouble and days later I still feel like I went too far.”
Having explained the situation, OP turned to Reddit for judgment.
Redditors weighed in by declaring:
- NTA – Not The A**hole
- YTA – You’re The A**hole
- NAH – No A**holes Here
- ESH – Everyone Sucks Here
Redditors decided: NTA
Many commenters discussed the issue of consent.
“OP gave the kids the best lesson ever.”
“Don’t touch a disabled person. (Edit: without their consent)” ~ Catatomical
“Jfc. Adding to this.”
“CONSENT APPLIES TO MORE THAN SEXUAL CONTACT.”
“Any time you need/want to touch someone, you should be asking permission.” ~ alphaowlboy
“Also, you should never assume someone needs or wants help. You should always ask.”
“‘Would you like some help?'”
“Then you also have to accept if the answer is no. If it is yes, ‘How can I help you?’ Then you have to listen and act on the information they gave you.”
“I spent a few years in a wheelchair, and it is amazing how even if people get the first part about asking, they are not up to speed on the second part which is accepting whatever answer they’re given.” ~ KPinCVG
There were personal stories, of course.
“Wheelchair user here.”
“I’ve been ‘helped’ face-first off curbs more than once, and people don’t seem to get that ‘no thank you’ means ‘no thank you’ the first, second, third and every other subsequent time.”
“People seem to think if they keep asking I’ll give in and let them do their good deed for the day regardless of how frustrated, inconvenienced or even physically hurt I end up. ~ Weird-Roll6265
“This reminds me of a story about an actual kinder kid.”
“I used to be an orientation and mobility instructor for people with vision impairment.”
“My manager had a badass little boy as one of his clients.”
“Jumped off his wardrobe across the room onto his bed, navigated his way around the school with a cane and echolocation like a boss.”
“One day his kinder teacher told us she’d watched him during story time on the mat.”
“Another little boy sat behind him and kept waving his hand in front of boss-boy’s face.”
“He was doing everything except directly touching him to see what he could get away with. She saw boss-boy cock his head slightly to the side and listen for the next movement from the kid behind him.”
“When the kid behind him went to reach in front again, boss boy quick as lightening grabbed his collar and punched him in the face.”
“She didn’t intervene and said the other kid wanted to be best mates after that. Lesson learned early and well.” ~ LedaKicksTheSwan
Commenters pointed out how common this really is.
“‘People who want to help others don’t grab forcefully.'”
“Unfortunately, that is not true.”
“Every single person I know who has a visible disability and uses some sort of device, be it a cane or a wheelchair, can tell numerous stories of people grabbing (sometimes quite forcefully) without asking and not stopping when told not to.”
“For some people a disabled person is fair game when it comes to ‘helping’ as they see fit, usually because they are ableist AHs but believe themselves to be ‘doing good'”.
“They don’t understand that they are at best plain rude and at worst a danger to the disabled person.”
“That is not to say that the guy in OP’s story wasn’t up to something bad. And OP had every right to be as loud and forceful as necessary.” ~ spinni81
“Scream, be loud, tell them to f*ck all the way off at the top of your lungs and you will never, EVER, be the a**hole in the situation.”
“I babysat and did a little respite care for my neighbour’s son years ago, and I qualified for some training through the Canadian Deafblind Association.”
“The central message to everything we were taught in regards to communication was gentle guidance as opposed to sudden forced movement, right down to small things we (the sighted and hearing) don’t even think about because in our lives because they’re no big deal.”
“Like tapping/scooping someone under their wrist/hand to guide them to something as opposed to from the top of the wrist/grabbing.”
“One is gentle direction and help, the other is the physical equivalent of all caps lock with extra exclamation points commands.”
“He had no right to grab you, he’s an ass for assuming you need help, and ‘well-meaning’ people need to mind their own business and keep their hands off strangers and/or their mobility devices.” ~
“I (wheelchair user) was waiting for my ride home after work at the local hospital.”
“Reading the paper, minding my own business, just chilling.”
“Random lady: ‘Do you need help??”‘
‘”….With what…’ She turned about 15 shades of red and stammered for about 2 minutes before she finally walked away.”
“I honestly felt bad, but come on. If you truly feel that someone may need assistance, at least have an idea of what you are intending to assist them with…” ~ Weird-Roll6265
For some this was a question of respect.
“You have the same fundamental right as every other person on planet earth to have your personal space respected, and to not be touched by strangers no matter how ‘pure’ they think their intentions are.”
“There is this an incredibly f*cked up expectation of people with disabilities to be polite to sh*theads like this because they’re harmless and they mean well and they don’t know better.”
“F*ck that. It’s not your job to teach them. Scream bloody murder. Maybe they’ll figure it out.”
“This makes me so mad for you.” ~ post_faith
“Totally agree -“
“And regardless of how you think you ‘should’ have acted, it sounds like this was an immediate reaction because you rightfully felt afraid in the moment.”
“NEVER beat yourself up or feel bad for an immediate reaction — you literally cannot control how your body reacts to fear; ‘fight or flight’ is wired into our brains/adrenal glands, and for good reason.”
“And that man’s child learned a crucial lesson about not assuming that every blind person needs a stranger’s help, not to mention the importance of consent.”
“NTA.” ~ RadicalEmpathy03
Commenters were stunned at this man’s behavior.
“NTA and WTF was that dude thinking. ‘Helping a cripple’???”
“I would have yelled at him myself if I saw that behavior.”
“You never just grab people! What a…… short on critical thinking kind of person he is.”
“I live in a state that you never know who’s carrying, so grabbing someone could become hazardous to your health.” ~ TCTX73
OP even returned to explain how to properly approach this sort of situation.
“Don’t grab me or any other disabled person unless they’re in imminent danger of getting hurt (walking into traffic, falling off a train platform, etc).”
“Unless they’re blind and deaf, which would mean they likely have a caregiver, they should be able to hear you fine.”
“(Ive never met a blind/deaf person who didnt have full time assistance, but its certainly possible for someone to exist without it- even Helen Keller had someone on hand)”
Consent isn’t just for intimacy.
Consent is for any situation where you’re intruding on someone else’s autonomy.
Whether that’s helping a blind woman find her seat or pushing someone’s wheelchair across a busy street or reading the subtitles for someone next to you.
As a cane-user, there are lots of challenges I face while existing out in the world.
Parking, seating, distance and so many more.
My difficulties should not include your insistence on ‘helping’.