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.

Not every disability is visible

Now, here’s a great idea being pioneered by one supermarket in the Asda chain in the UK which is, in turn, a company owned by the giant Walmart group in the US. And, like all the best ideas, it is simplicity itself.

All the supermarket has done is to place a second sign on the door of its accessible restroom for people with disabilities. The sign points out that not all disabilities are visible.

asda toilet signIt is certainly a timely reminder to all those tempted to berate someone leaving that room who shows no outward sign of a disability. There are plenty of people with disabilities who are not only able to walk but also show no obvious sign of the disability.

Of course, accessible rooms for people with disabilities should not cause friction between people but just like accessible parking spaces, regrettably, they do. There always seems to be somebody ready to question and criticize – without thinking about invisible or hidden disabilities.

There are many conditions that class as ‘invisible’, including MS in its earlier stages, meaning that a person who may seem able, is fighting his or her disability on the inside. And, because of that situation, such a person has a genuine need to use a n accessible restroom.

In an attempt to put an end to the disapproving stares, the muttering that is designed to be heard by the supposed ‘offender’ and, ultimately, the embarrassing confrontation that can occur, the Asda Monks Cross store in the city of York has accepted the challenge by changing adding the extra sign. Let’s hope that this is the start of something big that is grasped by Asda as a whole and even beyond that one retail company.

Apparently, it was a young girl who has inflammatory bowel disease, an invisible disability, who took a picture of the sign, which reads: ‘Not every disability is visible’, and posted it to Crohn’s and Colitis UK’s Facebook page. It has so far received more than 10,000 likes.

Where you get Facebook ‘Likes’, you also get comments and many have expressed their happiness after seeing the post about the sign.

One person wrote: ‘Finally some recognition for those hidden disabilities, Crohn’s has been my nemesis for years yet I always feel judged for using disabled facilities. Well done Asda.’

And another post read: ‘That’s a great sign. I’ve heard the grumbling public whispering loudly how I shouldn’t be using a disabled toilet.’