People might not like to admit it, but statistics sadly show that the majority of able-bodied people feel awkward around people with disabilities.
This can lead to some bizarre behaviour.
If you saw someone walking towards a closed door, you wouldn't normally rush to overtake them in order to open it first, without asking, on the off-chance they need the help.
And Julian Gavino is here to remind you not to do that to disabled people either.
The 22-year-old has Ehlers Danlos Syndrom, a connective tissue disorder that causes him issues including heart problems, mobility issues and trouble hearing.
Julian - who uses a wheelchair and has a service dog, Atlas - said people often assume he's unable to do certain tasks. In an Instagram post, he explained:
One of the most difficult while simultaneously helpful things about being disabled is the amount of people who reach out to help you.
It’s both endearing yet annoying. For quite a long time some able bodied people have viewed persons with disabilities to be helpless.
While some of us, especially with disabilities know this isn’t true. I can drive my own car, take care of my dog, clean the house, go out alone (with Atlas), open doors, get up curbs, and basically live my life with some help from Atlas and Jaina. However, people in public often don’t know this or even understand this.
They just see me in a wheelchair with a service dog, and often run to my aid unwarranted.
He added that though people are acting out of generosity, and he appreciates the intent, their actions can come across as patronising:
I don’t mind their generosity. That’s not what it’s about. Its about the assumptions.
When someone sees me go to open a door, they don’t even let me TRY before they run over and just open the door for me. They assume I can’t open it.
When I reach for something it’s just ASSUMED I can’t get it. So it’s handed to me.
When I go to a store I’m asked if I need help by every employee that works there... twice. When only one employee asks an able bodied person once.
This is being treated differently. It’s not mean or malicious however it makes a statement saying, “I don’t think they can do it.”
So, what's the solution? Just ask if you can help and how you can help. He wrote
Ask me if I need the door opened or ask me if you can reach something for me. Consequently, most people with disabilities will ask someone for help if they need it. If I need help I have no problem asking. I just don’t appreciate unwarranted help.
Personally, I enjoy a challenge. I enjoy trying to navigate the life I’ve been given. Because if I don’t try for myself and have to problem solve, when will I ever learn? How could I possibly keep working towards independence if everyone does everything for me?
Julian told indy100 that when he was learning how to reopen doors as he started using his wheelchair, he went to a store and practice but "it took months because people would always jump in and do it for me". He added:
I wanted to learn and adapt to my new life. But it seemed people wouldn’t even allow me to learn for myself.
His Instagram is flooded daily with comments from others with disabilities expressing their frustration - and able-bodied people who are happy they learnt something new.
In response to his post on asking to help people with disabled people, one Instagram user commented:
I completely agree. When I'm in my chair people will do things for me without asking and sometimes it makes things harder for me.
Another one of my pet peeves is when someone holds open an automatic door after I’ve already pressed the button. Like, it’s gonna stay open on it’s own. Don’t shit on my independence.
One person thanked Julian for the information:
Thankyou for spreading awareness. It must be so frustraiting when others just assume you can't do every day things and butt in and do it for you.I will always ask if someone needs help
Julian told indy100 that he is so open about his disability on social media "because I see no other way to be". He added:
I have a different perspective than the average person so I want to share my experiences. So that people can understand my world, and learn from it as well.
Julian hopes he is changing perceptions by sharing his story online. But he can only do so much on his own, and is calling for better representation of people with disabilities.
I think we can start by listening. Giving us a voice and a platform to speak. Too often we are in the background or not in the frame at all.