The U.S. Census Bureau says that 19 million Americans are disabled, but this figure is highly subjective, because not everyone agrees on what constitutes a disability. For example, some people may consider chronic back pain to be disabling, while others see it as a permanent free pass on moving days.
Of course, the most important assisting tool is not available in stores, because it is your attitude. Most disabled people want others to be cognizant of their condition, but do not want others to go to any trouble for them. For example, if a person has hearing problems, speak up and look directly at the person when talking but do not shout or communicate in semaphore.
Actions speak louder than words, so what are some ways to put this attitude into practice?
Getting Ready in the Morning
Most of us spend more time thinking about what to wear than we do actually getting dressed, but for those with mobility impairments, getting dressed is much more of a chore.
Here, there are a number of physical tools to help people with disabilities. A simple gift like an extra long shoe horn says a lot. This item helps you say that you understand the challenges that the person faces, but that these challenges are easy to overcome with the right assistance. Many times, that’s the exact message that a person with disabilities needs to hear.
Assists at Work
What if your mobility-impaired neighbor or friend also happens to be a mobility-impaired co-worker?
The same basic rule applies. Be understanding and discreet, yet helpful and proactive. When walking down the street for lunch, build in an extra few minutes for the stroll. As far as physical alterations are concerned, many mobility-impaired people do not need or want major accommodations.
Keep the work area uncluttered. Make sure there are no boxes on the floor or computer cords in traffic areas. Also, communicate by e-mail and instant message when possible. Most offices already do business this way.
These simple accommodations will make the day go more smoothly for you and your friend. Moreover, bear in mind that these alterations are usually only temporary. Many times, the mobility impairment is only temporary (because of surgery or whatever).
Evenings and Weekends
During these times, help your friend focus on regaining lost mobility.
Yoga is an excellent tool. The deep breathing exercises reduce stress and anxiety, which means that the body produces less cortisol and can work to heal itself. The physical exercise is good as well, because it increases blood flow to the extremities. There are lots of good poses that include a chair or a wall for support, and there are lots of yoga classes for the mobility-impaired.
See also: How Meditation Helps to Control the Mind
Also, encourage your friend or neighbor to be physically active. Park far away from the door when you go shopping, walk the dog, and maybe do a charity walk. If you send the message that your friend is capable of doing these things, your friend will get that message, and you will both be the better for it.