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THE LANTERN
There is Strength in Asking for Help
headshot of Joseph Down - author of this blog post

by Joseph Down | Through My Eyes

We live in a remarkable time; truly we do. We live in a day-and-age where you can question nearly anything in the world, pull out your phone, and within minutes have your answer.  You can go on Amazon make a purchase and within mere hours you can have that package delivered to your doorstep. If there is a skill you want to learn or a task you need to complete but lack the knowledge, a quick internet search will provide you a video tutorial making you a new found expert in said task.

The advancement of technology in recent years has brought a whole new phrase ‘do it yourself’. This, coupled with the fact that many in society have a hesitation to ask for help or assistance, further the ‘fend for yourself’ mentality. Now, doing things on your own, figuring things out for yourself, striving for independence, I actually support. In fact, I encourage people to be independent and solve problems for themselves. However, what is a person to do when a disability hinders their ability to be fully independent?

As someone who has lived with a visual impairment for the past 20 years, I have learned to be resourceful and adaptable with regards to dealing with challenges and obstacles. However, there comes a point where you simply cannot complete the task or challenge due to your disability, in its existing form, no matter how hard you try. Now, ‘in its existing form’ that is important because you can complete any challenge in front of you. It may take more time, the parameters of the challenge may need to be adjusted, but rest assured, you can complete it.

So, the question arises, what do you do when you have reached the point of failure and things need to be adjusted? You ask for help. You seek out someone who can assist you and you say, “excuse me, could you please help me?” If you are in class and you are having trouble reading the questions on your test because the font size is too small, simply ask the teacher to enlarge the font. If you are in the airport and are having a hard time finding your terminal because you cannot see the direction panels, simply ask, “excuse me, can you tell me where Terminal B is?”

People tend to confuse the idea of asking for help or adjusting something for someone’s needs as special treatment. Contrary to this belief, asking for help or adjustment is not special treatment, it is specialized treatment. Specialized treatment that allows you to continue functioning as an independent, self-adapting, individual.  Personally, I remember a time, however brief, where I thought needing specialized treatment or help made me a nuisance, bothersome, and even a failure because I could not complete a task the way it was originally intended. However, I soon realized that by attempting to accomplish the task the way it was intended (ways my disability hindered me from completely in its original form) I was actually competing at a severe disadvantage.

For me, trying to take a test with the regular 12-point font was the same as trying to catch a baseball with a hole in your glove. Sometimes you might catch the ball, but most of the time you are going to fail. What this showed me is that if I can succeed even in the smallest ways with no assistance or accommodations imagine the success I could achieve with basic accommodations. This realization motivated me and lit a fire in me to always strive for complete success in everything I do, no matter the challenge or obstacle. And, when I need to ask for some help or accommodation to make things specialized for my needs, to simply ask.  Never be afraid to ask for help. It does not make you weak, it allows you to continue being strong.