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"Most Able Disabled"

Meg Casey's handicapped issues column

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by Meg Casey

Handicap Manners

Handicap Etiquette

February 2 1983

A bit of etiquette with a list of do's and don'ts for dealing with a physically disabled or blind person.

Don't shout at a person who is blind, his hearing is probably fine.

It's okay to use phrases like "See what I mean?" Or "looking good!" Words like this are incorporated into the English usage, and are just as normal to use with blind people.

If you want help help but don't know quite what to do, ask.

If you think you would like to know one of your fellow students who is blind, go up and introduce yourself, or he'll never know you're there. How should you act with a blind person? Just be yourself. If you think you don't know how to react to a blind person, remember that some will not know how to react to you, the sighted person.

There are some modifications you should know:

Narrow areas - These may be negotiated by one of two methods. If the space is relatively narrow, just press your arm closer to your body, indicating that it is narrow area. The person you are guiding will draw closer. If a space is so narrow that only one person can pass through at a time, you will place your arm with which you are guiding the blind person in back of you so that the forearm is resting in the small of your back. The blind person will then extend his arm fully and place himself directly behind you.

Stair - It is not necessary to count stairs for a blind person. If you pause briefly before ascending or descending it will alert him that a change in motion will occur. Pause again at the end of the stairs so he will know when to stop climbing. It will give him time to catch up to your level.

Doorways - When approaching a door, you should position the blind person so that his free hand can hold the door open for you, just as a sighted person would.

Orientations to surroundings - The clock system is used for describing the location of objects in the immediate surroundings. The direction that the blind person is facing will be 12 o'clock. Something directly to his right will be 3 o'clock; to his left will be 9 o'clock; etc. it is convenient - it is easier to say that something is at 1 o'clock than it is to say "three steps to the right and two to the left." The clock face can also be used for locating items on a restaurant table or food a plate.

Remember when directing a blind person, not to say "over here" or "that way." When you say "to the right" make sure you mean to his right, not yours.

Remember, too that when you are leading a blind person you are navigating with two bodies, not one, and in many cases you need to allow for the extra space needed. It is expected when you are leading a blind person, you are also protecting him from bodily harm.

Hearing problems can affect other aspects of life such as affecting a person's sense of balance. Being deaf in one ear may mean not being able to which direction a sound is coming from so a person may often be turning their head in unfamiliar places to try to locate sounds. Two ears help in being able to cancel out distracting background sounds. paying closer attention to the other senses can assist making one's way around, for example, a blind person can use the change in pitch heard as water filling a container is close to being full.

Bumbling Social Idiots

September 21, 1983

What do you do when you you're out and are introduced to someone whom you are destined to be spending the next several hours with because of your mutual acquaintance and the new person is so acutely uncomfortable with your disability they are making a bumbling idiot out of themselves, stumbling over words, missing pieces of the conversation that they were directing, dropping food on their clothes and spilling things? There's no doubt that this is a embarrassing situation for all parties participating and the longer it goes on the worse it gets but what am I supposed to do about it, leave? Why should I have to leave? I really resent having to feel like I should! Dear Tuff Guy,

I'm not going to tell you to remove yourself from the planet but I would suggest positioning your body a discrete distance further out of the expected range of motion so that you don't become a catchall for any of the runoff! This person sounds like a walking / talking catastrophe I'm sure no one was praying to any Lorde for the ground to open up and swallow them than they were themselves. If you give yourself time to think back on that whole scene in it's entirety I'm quite sure that the humorous side of such a slapstick situation is bound to tickle your funny bone at least little (and if it doesn't it should, so lighten up your moods or you'll find find you have a lot of very long days ahead you!)

I find myself found myself chuckling my sympathy for you as I read your description of what took place and was reminded of the thousand and one similar predicaments yours truly was personally involved in with people who were probably cousins to the social clod you just met. Granted the humor wears thin with an overly long act and your laugh might become as stiff as the smile you've plastered on your face but I can even find humor in that. The testing of your frustrated patience is a bit of a sick torture out of a Monty Python spoof. Which only makes you realize what the secret to that show's success is, the play on real life situations of human interaction.

Every human being has suffered from "foot in mouth" disease during some god awful stage in their life. Some poor suckers are continually plagued by it. Put yourself in their shoes and be embarrassed for them. If you are being victimized by the ordeal but are unable to move yourself with dignity because you are afraid of putting your "mutual" friend in the lurch then I suggest that you set out to be a calming, confident and entertaining influence on the flustered flappers that you charm them out of their misery. Let's face it, you have nothing to lose. You are already being made the center of attention by whatever means, so take a commanding role and rescue everybody. You'll have earned their undying gratitude as well as coming off as a good sport!

However you should never have to feel obligated to indulge the demeaning conduct of the flaming "Boob." No true friend will allow or expect you to do so. At such a time you could teach how a well needed lesson of what a "first class act" is like. Play yours to the hilt! Whatever course of action you take keep your head held high and never lose your pride in yourself.

Rude Handicapped Bastards

January 5 1983

What do you do when you meet a person with an obvious handicap who is obnoxious and rude? If you tell them off, like you would someone else who isn't handicapped, people think you're a louse.

Z.Z.

Dear Z.Z.

Dealing with obnoxious and rude people is always an unpleasant occurrence. Every once in a while one manages to get under your skin just right and you simply can't resist the impulse to turn around, roll up your sleeves and go after a little piece of your own back from them. At other times the Christian practice of "turning the other cheek" conveniently becomes the furthest thing from your mind and you tell yourself that you'll deal with the guilt … later!

How utterly frustrating after having turned a blind eye on your conscience to spin and find your fury about to be vented on a foe who even after being placed on a box only stands as high a your belt buckle … or they're sitting in a wheelchair. … or struggling with a pair of crutches. And you think you've got problems? Well, what are you going to do tough guy? Now what do you do with all of that venom you've sputtering with in your mouth?

Well, I'll tell you a secret. Handicapped people can be bastards too! It is our right to be deserving of a punch in the nose as the next guy! If after all factors have been considered, you're still right and they're wrong, then let them have it.

I won't continue to make light of the situation because, in all seriousness, While I never recommend fisticuffs to settle a situation, I'm a firm believer in putting someone in their place when they need it. Regardless of the equality of the opposing sizes, sometimes it has to be done. It is up to you to judge your particular predicament and assess if your righteous attitude is worth a public scene. (Also check if it is physically safe to do it. They may be bigger!)

While it is true that a person may have to deal with the hardships of a disability they are not given a special license to excuse them from exercising good manners. We are not talking parking permits here; we are talking about conducting one's self in a civilized way towards others.

There is a difference between having a Christian attitude and setting one's self up as a sucker. To allow an obnoxious person to get away with stomping all over your rights and feelings is ridiculous. To allow it for the sole reason that that person has a handicapped is pity. In this age of everyone fighting for their own equality, give people like this the respect everyone wants and let them feel your anger. Show them another facet of what the word equality means from person who practices it.

They may have been waiting all of their life for someone to put up a good fight for change.

So, the next time you find a deserving situation, "Give 'em hell, Harry!"

You just may teach them a lesson, whether they are handicapped or not. Next time they'll pick on someone their own size!

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blog posts and art by Meg Casey
originally published 1982 to 1985 in the Milford Citizen newspaper