Nine Principles for

Dealing with Disabled People


By Dr. Ken Matto


On August 28, 2018 I observed my 15th year as a disabled person becoming disabled on August 28, 2003.  I woke up that Thursday morning and my hip was really hurting plus it was weak.  I thought at first that I had pulled a muscle or twisted myself when I was sleeping but my situation did not get any better and I find myself 15 years later still disabled which will remain that way unless the Lord heals my legs or my transition to glory.  Some things I have learned over these 15 years which may be of help to those who deal with disabled people or just have friends who are disabled.  I want to offer some suggestions that will prevent anxiety in that relationship.  Many times people who do not suffer from any disabilities may accidentally do things which could cause more problems for the disabled person.  I do hope that you consider these things because it helps alleviate stressful situations.


1) Don’t Just Show Up, Call Ahead!

Many times people will just show up without any notice and it can cause problems with a disabled person because they may be in the middle of something where they might not be able to finish in a few seconds and this places much stress on an already taxed person.  Call ahead, even if it is only ten minutes ahead but it allows the disabled person an opportunity to either accept the company at that time or postpone maybe for another hour or so.  Believe me, it is very courteous to call ahead.  It takes a disabled person longer to get dressed or complete tasks than other people. 


2) Set Proper Time Parameters

There is another thing which is discourteous and that is when a repairman or mechanic coming to the house to do some work and they do not set up a time parameter.  There were times I had to go out and get some food and the person would call me and tell me they would be there in 5 or 10 minutes.  Well that happened to me when I was 14 miles away and the person called and told me ten minutes.  Well how could I drive back 14 miles to the house in 10 minutes?  If you are going to visit a disabled person to do some work at their residence, then give an accurate window of time so they can be prepared to receive you.  There were times I was given a certain time and that person would be two hours late, I literally got light headed waiting for the person because I could not get out to eat. 


3) Never Move Things Around in the House or Discard Anything Unless Asked

Another thing that can create a problem is when people come into a house of a disabled person and move things around.  For example, I use plastic bags to carry items from one room to another and therefore I stage them in various places where I will use them.  Many times I have gone to get the bag and it was gone.  Either it was moved or it was thrown out.  Disabled people place things in different places for reasons of convenience, not for someone to move or throw out.  This is especially important for those folks who do house cleaning.  Whenever you move an object, make sure you put it right back where you found it.  I remember a few times that my lamps were turned off because the cleaners had tried to turn them on by the switch on the lamp itself but could not get them to work.  I have all my lamps on remote switches so all one has to do is just use the remote but if the disabled person is never asked about the lamps and they need light in the middle of the night and the lamp is turned off without a word being said, then that creates a major hardship.  This could be exacerbated if the person has to get to the bathroom at night and they have no light and therefore cannot find their slippers and this could lead to the proverbial “accident.”


4) Have Patience

Here is something else which is rude.  It is when someone rings my doorbell and leaves in a few seconds so by time I get out there, no one is there because of having no patience to wait.  Disabled people have all kinds of disabilities which hinder their ability to move fast.  When I was able to walk without a cane, I could move fast but now I cannot and people who have good bodies must realize that.  If you do not have the patience to wait, then don’t ring the doorbell without calling ahead.


5) Look at Life from their Perspective

A disabled person has limited options in life.  What once came easy to them, now possibly comes hard.  Once I could get up and walk to anywhere I wanted, even distance walking but now I am limited to only a certain distance I can walk without experiencing leg pain or being out of breath plus I must use a cane.  We are limited to what our body can do and not what it cannot do.  We have had to switch our lives around and remove those things we used to do and replace them with limited things that we can do.  What people with good bodies must understand is that disabled people did not ask to be that way but the will of God has made us this way to work out His plan.  For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD.  Isaiah 55:8 (KJV) Do we always know why these things happen?  No we do not because God is not obligated to tell us but we can be sure of one thing, our disability was not done out of dislike for His children.  Do I miss being on the preaching circuit?  You bet I do especially at this time in history when there is so much heresy being proclaimed in churches and among Christians in general. 


6) Visit once in a while and bring a Pizza

Disabled people know that other folks cannot come and sit with them all day.  That is not what is being asked.  A visit from friends once in a while even for a few minutes does a lot to brighten up the day.  I estimate I spend about 99% of my time alone and every once in a while someone comes to visit or I will have a conversation with a neighbor for a few seconds.  These visits may not last long but it tells a disabled person that they are not forgotten and that they still have value even when they are sequestered because of their physical problems.  The alone time also helps me develop Bible studies and articles for posting on the internet, so it does not go to waste.


7) Disabled People Create Routines

A disabled person will create routines for themselves which make their existence a little easier.  For example they may shower every day at a specific time.  They may eat at specific times.  They may go to bed at specific times.  Do not try to undercut their routines because they are a necessary thing in the life of a disabled person.  If you think of a way they can do something more easily, then make the suggestion but if it is not accepted, do not take offense.  They have to evaluate if your suggestion will help or make it harder.  Remember, you are not the one who is disabled, they are, and with that disability has had to come many life shifting routines and habits.  Their routines may seem a little out of sorts, but it may be designed to ease their daily living.


8) Disabled People Normally Need More Rest

When your body is operating below standard, it means you have to exert more strength just to do the normal routines, even walking.  A disabled person normally will be more tired at the end of the day and may need to have more hours of rest because their body has to work twice as hard as those who have good bodies.  So if a disabled person states that they do not get up till 10 or 11 AM, then be courteous and do not ring their phone or knock on their door at 8 or 9 AM in the morning.  If they have e-mail, then send them an e-mail and they will see it as soon as they are awake and then they can call you.


9) Disabled People Do Need Help

There is no denying it that disabled people do need help but that does not mean they will guilt manipulate you into staying all day or doing it for nothing.  Many times I need milk, need to have a package taken to the Post office, be pushed in a wheelchair from point A to point B, even to have a heavy package from UPS brought into the house, etc.  The Lord has raised up a friend I have known for over 35 years to help me in these many situations who lives around the corner from me.  He raised up the couple who discipled me as a new Christian who also live close to me and they put up my curtains and a Roman Shade.  Another brother helped me on the day of my move from Edison, NJ to here in Whiting, NJ.  For those who help me, I try to compensate them for their time and use of vehicle.  If you are able to help a disabled person, then meet with them and ask if they can consolidate their needs for doing things at one time.  Sometimes it is hard to do that but you make every effort.  A disabled person will not try to manipulate those who help them.  I personally will not call anyone for help if it is something I can do myself, even if I must do it slower.  I will never presume upon a friendship.


Final Thoughts

As a disabled person, I really appreciate those who help me when I need it.  Disabled people are sometimes misunderstood because of the way they have to live their lives.  It has no reflection on friends or family but they must readjust their lives because this is a new era which will probably last until the time the preacher stands over them and says “He or she looks so natural.”  Try to understand the situation that the disabled person is in and you will have greater appreciation of them because always remember, the next disabled person could be you.  He who has ears to hear!