The Road to Hell.

A laptop, coffee mug, and stack of books, in a monotone blue and white filter.

Audio:

They say that the road to hell is paved with good intentions, which would actually make it more accessible than the stairway to heaven.

What is really meant by this saying is that most people think they’re doing the right thing; we’re all the hero of our own story. This includes people doing blatantly bad things, who have warped the truth and somehow managed to convince themselves that they’re actually doing the right thing. It can apply to heinous acts of inhumanity, and also to that time you tried to lighten the mood by making a joke at an inopportune moment. We’ve all been there.

What matters is not the intention of these actions, but the impact. If it were the intention that mattered then the majority of us would be innocent. However, intentions aside, you’re unlikely to forgive someone for harming you without a decent apology. Depending on the scale of the slight, even the most eloquent of apologies is not enough.

Good intentions actually cause a lot of problems for disabled people. Providing help without asking first (or listening to my answer) has resulted in a lot of problems for me in the past, including damage to my wheelchair, or even injury. It might have been well-meaning, but on several occasions door-handles have been ripped from my hands as people rush to get the door for me, resulting in muscle strains and colourful bruises. Trying to push my wheelchair over a small step, or offering to carry it up, can cause damage to the frame or motors. Trying to steer my wheelchair for me by grabbing hold of the joystick has even resulted in others getting hurt, because by grabbing it from the wrong angle the very sensitive controls respond accordingly, ramming into people’s ankles. Of course, when that happens, I’m the one at fault.

In each of these cases the cost is great. Minor injuries can cause weeks of pain or even permanent damage. A broken wheelchair is not only costly (even with insurance), but leaves me housebound until it is fixed, which could be for weeks at a time. The intention may have been to help me and make my day a little easier, but I’m still going to respond angrily to what has happened, especially when it is so easily avoided. Ask, and listen to the response!

Sometimes the damage may not physically manifest immediately. The able-bodied people who insist that disabled is a bad word, and that euphemisms like differently abled should be used instead, mean well. However, the impact is that everyone spends all of their time trying to decide what to call us, and actual issues like inaccessibility go unresolved.

Telling me that you meant well is pointless; I already know that you meant well, & it doesn’t resolve the harm done. It’s also likely to rile me further, as it demonstrates a lack of empathy. By telling me this, you are telling me that your values are superior to my perception of the outcome. It is the equivalent of putting butter on a burn instead of going to the hospital.

We all mean well when we make mistakes, but time cannot be rewound. The error cannot be unmade. What matters is acknowledging the impact and responding accordingly, even if there’s nothing more to do than offer a sincere apology.

After all, traversing the metaphorical road to hell paved with good intentions would pale in comparison to the impact of hell itself.

One thought on “The Road to Hell.

  1. People can be goofy. My disability is with my vision, which you can’t detect by looking at me. When I inform someone I can’t see what they are referring to, I usually get a slightly irritated response, with a “how was I supposed to know?” inference. Calm down there, Turbo, you WEREN’T supposed to know. That’s why I mentioned it.

    Liked by 2 people

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