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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Affiliate disclaimer: This affiliate disclosure details the affiliate relationships of MS, Health & Disability at with other companies and products. Read more.

* * * * * 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.

Busy Monday for settlers


Ok, Monday morning was extremely busy as Lisa and I, with the help of Barry, managed to open a joint account with a Spanish bank, register with the local medical centre and make our first appointment to see a doctor, take the first steps towards gaining NIEs for both of us – and do some much needed grocery shopping.

Once we returned to our temporary accommodation, we received the news that our new home is ready to move into, apart from some necessary handgrips. This means that we now need to buy some essential items such as bedding, cooking pans and utensils, crockery, cutlery and so on. Because of this, we probably won’t be moving in until Tuesday afternoon or Wednesday but we’ll see how it goes.

We had chosen to go with Banco Popular and were both amazed that the procedures were so convoluted and slow. It took more than one hour, actually more like 90 minutes, before our account number was finally handed over. I appreciate that all banks need to guard against money laundering but that length of time seemed excessive.

Anyway, our visit to the gestoria this morning established that to obtain NIEs we both have to apply in person to the relevant office in Almeria, more than an hour’s drive away. He agreed to make appointments for us but indicated that it was likely that we would have to wait two weeks.

Just in case you are wondering, the NIE is a tax identification number issued in Spain to anyone who is not Spanish. NIE stands for Número de Identidad de Extranjero, which translates literally as Number of identity of foreigner or, more properly, Foreigners’ Identity Number. Spanish citizens have their own cards Documento Nacional de Identidad. The NIE is the equivalent of the DNI but just for foreign residents. Spanish citizens get a plastic ID card but EU foreign residents don’t. So if someone asks either of us for our DNI card, we just need to give them our NIE number.

While out and about this morning, we stopped off for a coffee at a local café. Prices here continue to amaze me. We had three coffees and two enormous pastries and the total cost was just 4.90€. I cannot think of anywhere in the UK where anyone could buy the same quality and quantity items for the same price – about £3.45.

Changing the subject, like the UK, with its wintry weather including snow and temperatures as low as -6˚C/21˚F according to the internet, our temperatures have also tumbled. Here they have fallen to 15˚C/59˚F.