My oldest daughter is in a wheelchair, and people are always wanting to "help" us. It's nice that they want to help, really it is. But so often, the help that they give is not terribly helpful. I can't believe how many people try to help by just grabbing without asking. Except in the case of an emergency, it's not OK to grab someone's wheelchair and just start pushing!
Like the time we were leaving the grocery store, and an employee suddenly grabbed her wheelchair and started pushing her toward the exit. Her two year old sister started crying and trying to get out of the seat of the shopping cart because she saw some stranger taking her sister away. I told him to please stop, so his solution (again without asking) was to grab the shopping cart instead. The two year old then started screaming because Strange Scary Guy Who Tried to Steal Her Sister was now taking her away from Mommy!
I ended up having to carry my now frantic two year old and let my "helper" push the cart. This took longer and was harder than my usual method of pushing the wheelchair while pulling the cart behind me. It also made us much more conspicuous than necessary. Sometimes I get tired of being the center of attention, and would just like to be able to go about my business without everyone noticing. I realize we may have looked like we needed help, but you ASK how you can help, you don't just GRAB.
Then there's my brother's wedding. Again, I realize I looked like I needed help after the ceremony. In addition to my daughter being in a wheelchair, I was massively pregnant. Anyway, someone associated with the church decided I needed help and would not leave me alone. She saw me opening a side door and insisted "You can't go out that way!" I realize why she thought so, as there were a couple steps leading out. But the chair was very light, and the rear wheels small enough that we carefully bumped her down steps all the time. I had gone down those very steps the other day after the rehearsal.
I tried to explain that no, we were fine and didn't need help. She would not be dissuaded and insisted on taking us to the elevator. "No, I really don't want to take the elevator," I tried to explain. But she wouldn't listen. I foolishly thought if I just let her show me where the elevator was she'd leave me alone. But no, she took us right to the elevator. Insisted on getting on the elevator with us. And apparently intended to take us to my car, because she then asked "Where are you parked?" I gritted my teeth and said "I tried to tell you, I'm not going to my car. I was going to the front of the church to see the bride and groom come out." We were now downhill and behind the church, and lucky me, she wasn't finished helping me. I almost got away, but she enlisted someone else's help. I had made it most of the way, and was pushing the chair up a small incline, when this someone else grabbed the footrest and nearly broke it trying to pull the chair up the rest of the way. It was at this point I said "Please stop helping me!"
Another time I was hoisting her wheelchair into the car, and someone lurched forward into my space without warning. It scared the crap out of me, I was afraid I was going to hit him with the chair, and I tensed up and really hurt my back. "I was trying to help you," he explained when I asked him what the heck he was doing. Why he thought I needed help when I had already lifted the chair up, I'll never know.
There's the minor annoyance of people who try to help by holding a door open for us, but can't seem to open it wide enough, or position themselves in such a way that I can't get in without rolling over their feet. Or the people who see me pushing the door open with my butt (which I know must look strange, but it works!) and suddenly pull the door wide open and throw me off balance.
Her wheelchair used to have pelvic straps to keep her hips back. People who didn't know what they were would often helpfully move them out of the way just as I was putting her into the chair. It was the oddest thing, the way they'd just suddenly leap forward out of nowhere and move the straps I had only moments ago positioned correctly. "Please put those back," I'd say, and be answered with an injured "I was just trying to help."
And then there's the people who try to help by getting in my way as I'm trying to put her in her chair. I'm not really sure what they're doing, if they think an extra set of hands are needed, or if they think I'm going to drop her or something. But it drives me nuts! And just a couple weeks ago, after some xrays, I had someone keep moving her chair as I was getting ready to put her in!
Whew. As you can see, lots of pet peeves here.
Anyway, I guess the take away message is "If you see someone in a wheelchair, or someone pushing a wheelchair, ask how you can help, don't just lurch forward or start grabbing stuff!"