The Thread: Accepting Assistance

Sheryl Burgstahler, DO-IT director

I wanted to share with you a question posed by a DO-IT Ambassador within our Internet discussion forum and some of the responses, so you can get the flavor of the many rich conversations the DO-IT community has online. Some forum posts are edited for clarity and brevity.

I'd like some suggestions regarding one of my most recent experiences. I had just completed an interview and had called for a cab. Over an hour passed, but no driver showed up. The HR specialist from my interview found me standing and waiting in front of the building. She felt like she needed to assist by taking me to a transit station. I, however, kept trying to decline her assistance because I knew she had employees to supervise. My questions are:

  • Would you have gone ahead and accepted her assistance? I had visited with her at the beginning of my interview so it was not like I was accepting assistance from a total stranger.
  • What would you do if no one had offered their assistance and you did not get the transportation you needed for over an hour?

DO-IT Ambassador: If none of my modes of transportation were available due to delays, I would hop on any opportunity to get a lift regardless of abilities or disabilities real, perceived, or otherwise.

DO-IT Ambassador: I do find that using taxis are a hassle and the drivers are often late. I don't really have trouble asking for help from others. But if someone couldn't help me, I'd wait for hours for the next bus or train. I also have flown across country alone once and have gotten help with airport transportation or the flight attendants. Most people are pretty understanding and I really try not to let my disability show. Bus customers can get snappy about late routes, but no one I asked for help from has ever turned me down.

DO-IT Mentor: First, my answers to your questions: Yes, if I hadn't found another way to depart after more than an hour of waiting, I would have accepted her assistance. I imagine that the transit station wasn't that far away, so it probably wouldn't have been a great inconvenience for her. I learned to always have a Braille reference card with me that lists phone numbers of the different taxi companies. You could do the same by saving the phone numbers in your cell phone. That way, if one taxi doesn't show up, you can call another. Personally, I would've probably first called the driver or the company dispatching the driver to find out the delay. If the taxi still didn't show up, I would call a different company after another ten minutes. I was lucky enough to encounter a driver who was reliable, and I have hired that driver to help me get to places. I found her through an airport service.

DO-IT Ambassador: I never worry about people taking issue with me accepting help they offered.

DO-IT Staff: I know that when we've had folks come for various interviews it wouldn't be unexpected for us to offer them help if their original means of transportation had failed and they were willing to explore other options. I could see us helping them figure out what buses to take or getting numbers for other cab companies, or if they just wanted to sit in our reception area until their transportation arrived.

I liked the earlier advice about checking in with the cab company if they are late and then checking in every ten minutes to make sure they are still coming to pick you up. At least then you have a better idea of when they will get there so you don't have to be standing out in the cold. I know that I can be stubborn sometimes and try to do things on my own. I've found that often times asking for help or accepting help when offered makes the task easier, faster, and I don't get as frustrated.

Original poster: I did check in with the cab company several times while I was waiting. Each time I called, the dispatcher said that they did not have a driver available in the area. Once the HR specialist drove me to the transit station, I was able to take the train to Beaverton and walk home. I told her that an instructor from the state commission for the blind would be showing me how to get to and from work by transit if I got the job. The lesson I learned from this experience is that not all transportation services serve the areas you need to visit on a regular basis. Therefore, careful selection of a company is extremely important. I might also consider taking transit to a nearby destination and then having the cab or volunteer driver take me the rest of the way. I would not have to pay as much for transportation, but the driver would get me safely to my interview.

DO-IT Mentor: Sounds like you did something that made sense. What matters most is that you're competent at using your tools and strategies for getting places, getting there on time when it counts, and dealing with unexpected situations in whatever way works best for you. If you feel that someone like the HR person needs to know, you can always explain your strategy as you did in this case.

DO-IT Mentor: When I was first injured it was difficult for me to accept assistance. Since then I have made a priority list of my goals. My first goal is to finish with graduate school. Standing around waiting for a bus keeps me from studying. Accepting the ride would get me back to working on my priority goal sooner. Thus, I would have accepted the ride. I believe everyone has to make their own goals and determine what is important for them. Where I live we are told the bus has a thirty minute window. If I did not see the bus at thirty-one minutes, I would call the dispatcher to find out the cause.