Cherish your independence but value all help

Independence is a value that we all prize and, perhaps, it’s the one that people with disabilities prize most highly.

Whatever type of disability we may have, we try to overcome it. We try, as best we can, to hold on to our independence as long as possible, sometimes beyond what is realistic.

While independence is one of those qualities that helps us be human beings, it is wrong to be discourteous when offered assistance. Even if I can manage without help, I either accept or decline politely, always saying thanks for offering.

supermarket shopping in a wheelchairFor those of us who use wheelchairs or scooters, or have problems reaching upwards, shopping in supermarkets can test our independence. Getting what we need from the highest shelves.

We reach up as high as we can, in an attempt to secure the item. However, in most cases, those pesky targets remain safely on their shelves, looking down at us with an air of defiance. Almost laughing at us.

At first, I glance around quickly to see if there is a staff member nearby. If so, they will be pleased to assist. If not, I’ll ask a fellow customer. I don’t feel shame or embarrassment, just gratitude for being handed whatever item I need. After all, I use a wheelchair because of a disability that results from MS. That’s not my fault, so no need to feel ashamed.

In one supermarket, when it is not so busy, they go even further to help anyone having problems. They have one of the staff take your shopping list and bring everything you want to the checkout. Then, once you have paid, they are happy to carry it all to your car and place it safely inside.

No shame, no guilt

When you make your own selections in the aisle and someone passes you a sought-after grocery, or other, is it any different than someone holding a door open for us? No, it isn’t. There is no need for any of us to feel guilty.

Of course, this also applies to anyone who cannot reach the topmost shelves. Also, those who are unable to bend down to reach the lowest shelves are equally in need of help.

There are, though, plenty of other people who can have problems getting what they want from those same difficult to reach shelves.

Such people may be of shorter than average adult height, they may have arthritis or another medical condition that diminishes their flexibility. Or they may be feeling the effects of being more advanced in years.

Whoever and however lacking we may be, we must cherish our independence and, at the same time, readily accept assistance. And, we must also do all we can to support others, according to the best of our abilities.

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* * * * * is the personal website of Ian Franks, a freelance medical writer and editor for various health information sites. He enjoyed a successful career as a journalist, from reporter to editor in the print media. He gained a Journalist of the Year award in his native UK. Ian received a diagnosis of MS in 2002 and now lives in the south of Spain. He uses a wheelchair and advocates on mobility and accessibility issues.

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Note: Health-related information available on 50shadesofsun website is intended for your general knowledge only and is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment for specific medical conditions. I am not a doctor and cannot and do not give you medical advice. You should seek prompt medical care for any specific health issues and consult a doctor before starting a new diet or exercise programme. Any opinions expressed are purely my own unless otherwise stated.

MS is No Excuse for Being Discourteous When Offered Help


It was a trip, plain and simple, neither my leg giving way nor a fall. It was MS-related because it was directly caused by foot drop; the toe of my left shoe caught on the tiniest ridge at the bottom of a ramp.

My trip wasn’t dramatic, I didn’t end up on my face. In fact, I simply sat down on a small retaining wall of a flower bed, about two or three bricks high. No fuss, Lisa even told me afterward that I had managed to sit down quite gracefully.

After sitting there for about a minute, I could have stood up and continued my way inside the restaurant for our meal and, back in the U.K., that’s exactly what I would have expected to happen.

Not here in Spain, though! No sooner had I come to sit on the low wall than two young men from a group at a table on the terrace, rushed up and helped me back to my feet. But that was not enough for one of them; he was determined not to let go until I was safely seated at a table

I expressed my gratitude in Spanish and he returned to his group outside.

Lisa and I enjoyed our meal, three courses plus a drink and a coffee for just 10€ each (about $10.50, or £8.50), which is nothing to complain about.

Eventually it was time to leave and, as we came out of the door, the same young man who helped me earlier again sprung out of his chair to escort me back to our car. This time, I had not tripped or fallen; he just wanted to help.

We exchanged a few words in Spanish (not too many as I am still learning the language, but enough to guide him to the correct car, make him understand that I needed to go the driver’s side and then to, once again, thank him for all his help).

Like many people who have MS or any other disability, I am keen to be independent. However, not so fiercely that I would be rude or cause offense to anyone offering help. Even those times when I do decline an offer, I always do so in a friendly way and make sure that it is obvious that the offer was appreciated.

You must have come across people who are discourteous when offered assistance, which they reject with a terse “I’ll be all right,” “I can do it,” or worse, “Leave me alone.” These people are doing no service to themselves or the wider community of people living with disabilities.

Yes, I have multiple sclerosis and, yes, I have a disability that sometimes necessitates using a wheelchair. But the disease does not have me, nor has my desire for independence robbed me of basic common courtesy.

This article, written by me, was first published by Multiple Sclerosis News Today.

strap-new is the personal website of Ian Franks, who is Managing Editor (columns division) of BioNews Services. BioNews is owner of 50 disease/disorder-specific news and information websites – including MS News Today. Ian has enjoyed a successful career as a journalist, from reporter to editor, in the print media. During that career he gained a Journalist of the Year award in his native UK. He was diagnosed with MS in 2002 but continued working until mobility problems forced him to retire early in late 2006. He now lives in the south of Spain. Besides MS, Ian is also able to write about both epilepsy and cardiovascular matters from a patient’s perspective and is a keen advocate on mobility and accessibility issues.