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Disabled Means Helpless

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Spagna: [cutting Pelswick's food] There! All done!
Pelswick: Thanks for doing that, but it's my legs that don't work, not my teeth.
Pelswick, "Hear No Evil, P.C. No Evil"

When some people meet a person with a disability, they automatically assume that the individual is totally incapable of looking after themselves, and treat them as such. Most egregiously, some people even assume that having one disability equals having every disability! These people are the ones who insist on SHOUTING AT THE BLIND, assuming they can't hear, either. These patronizing attitudes often create resentment on the part of people with disabilities.

In fiction, they have little problem telling the offender exactly that.

Learning this is not true is often the point of a Very Special Episode. Contrast this trope to the Handicapped Badass, who everyone can instantly tell is not to be messed with. May lead to Unwanted Assistance.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Subverted and somewhat Deconstructed in Guilty Crown. Ayase is a wheelchair user, but she is still the most skilled Endlave pilot in the show. Getting helped because of her disability is her biggest Berserk Button, even if it would be far more convenient for the situation. Defrosting at the hands of Shu eventually gets her over this.
  • Sometimes it seems as though Nunnally from Code Geass feels this way. She is the one with the disability (she can't walk or open her eyes), and prefers for the entire first season to have Lelouch take care of her, even though they're both teenagers (she gets better about this and finally starts acting on her own in season 2). In Episode 21 of R2, Lelouch says that Nunnally kept smiling because, disabled as she was, it was the only way she knew how to show her gratitude to him. This is very decisively zig-zagged in the final episodes. On one hand, Nunnally ruthlessly, though regretfully, used WMDs against her brother's forces. On the other hand, everything about her in the final episode — from her confrontation with Lelouch to her outfit in the final scene — suggests helplessness and even objectification.
  • In the Angelic Layer anime, this is why Shuuko Suzuhara left her child Misaki under the care of others, since she didn't want people to look down on Misaki for having "a useless mother", which is unfortunately Truth in Television as far as attitudes towards the disabled go in Japan. Elsewhere too of course; it's far from being an exclusively "Japanese" attitude, as discussed in the Real Life section of this page.
  • Averted in Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha A's. Hayate is paraplegic and uses a wheelchair, but it's never really treated as being important outside of being a sign that the Book of Darkness is slowly killing her. In fact, no one outside of her doctors or family even mentions it. It helps that she's depicted as an incredibly competent homemaker despite being nine years old.
  • Subverted in Yuki Yuna is a Hero. Togo worries that she can't be a good Hero because she uses a wheelchair, but her fears are proven wrong once she finally transforms. She's a great sniper and she has no problem moving around as a Hero either. It helps that she was a Hero prior to her paralysis, though she doesn't consciously remember this.

  • The intro to Ricky Gervais Politics Stand-Up show includes him talking extremely patronizingly to a guy in a wheelchair. When the guy protests that just because he's in a wheelchair doesn't mean he's mentally disabled, Gervais turns to the camera and says "so he's leg mental, but he's not head mental..."
  • Comedian Mike McConnell suffered from muscular dystrophy his entire life (his slogan was "100% comedy, 0% standup"). One of his routines dealt with "helpful" people who would push him and his wheelchair around without first asking or even warning him if it was okay and blamed the fact that people felt okay doing this on the assumption that because he was in a chair, he was mentally dysfunctional.
    "Look, it's pretty simple: treat the handles of a wheelchair like a pair of breasts. Unless they are attached to you, or unless you have permission to do so, keep your damned hands off!"

    Comic Books 
  • Spider-Man 2099: When Miguel asks his mother, who is mentally ill, how she could tell that he was lying, she replies that she's crazy, not stupid.
  • Ultimate Daredevil & Elektra: Foggy may mean well, always trying to help Matt with minor stuff, but he was clear: "I've told you before, Foggy. I'm not helpless, just blind"

    Comic Strips 
  • Cartoonist and artist John Callahan has a lot to say about this subject. One book title is Don't Worry He Won't Get Far on Foot and another is Will the Real John Callahan Please Stand Up.
  • Cutter John of Bloom County played with this trope from his wheelchair, which was sometimes a hindrance (forgetting the parking brakes on a hill, refusing to be helped up when he's knocked backwards) but was also often used as the "Starchair Enterpoop" by the nerdier meadow-dwellers who never thought of Cutter as anything other than their awesome Captain. He has a harder time convincing people he's not a Shell-Shocked Veteran from Vietnam.

    Fan Works 
  • In Twilight Pretty Cure, Kyoya lashes out at Riko, his best friend, because he misinterpreted one of her comments as referring to this. But when her mother explains she is autistic, which makes her unable to figure out when she's using the wrong words or the wrong tone of voice when saying something that can be construed as offensive by others, he regrets his actions and apologizes. However, one of his ex-friends, Daizo, is utterly convinced that one disability = ALL disabilities to the point where he outright abandons Kyoya because he, as he defines it, "became a cripple" and wants to completely disassociate himself from him. Fukiko, another one of Kyoya's old friends, used to agree with him, but after some nudges from Riko, she throws this belief away and tries to reconcile with him.
  • In the Buffy the Vampire Slayer fanfic "Assumptions and the Word All", it is discovered that when Willow activated all of the potential Slayers in the world, one of the potentials so-activated in a 31-year-old lawyer whose Cerebral Palsy keeps her wheelchair-bound with very little fine control over her body. She is hired by the Reformed Watcher's Council as a researcher and legal counsel, and is given as much combat training as she can physically handle, which admittedly isn't much. But when she overhears one of the younger Slayers talking about how an injured colleague is now a "useless cripple", the lawyer shows the girl why there exists such a thing as a Handicapped Badass in the first place with a punch that knocks the younger girl across the room.
  • In Tsubasa Chronicle: The Abridged Movie, Sakura interprets Princess Tomoyo's inability to speak as a sure sign that she's deaf, despite being explicitly told otherwise. This is much to Tomoyo's consternation.
  • People generally have this opinion about a blind Satsuki in Feel, however, she is anything but (aside from needing some help crossing the streets at times), as she's demonstrated. Along that line, like the Marlee Matlin example below, people also assumed she was deaf because she's The Quiet One (we do hear her thoughts and ruminations on some matters being expressed internally). As to be expected, she has expressed annoyance at this concept. A particular case in point about this occurs in chapter four, as Ragyou notes that Satsuki is prone to wandering off, leaving her to be criticized and being called irresponsible by other parents when the latter does, as they believe she is helpless and shouldn't be left without supervision. Like her daughter, Ragyou has expressed annoyance particularly at this trope and, not just this trope, the hypocrisy of the other parents related to this.
  • A Brighter Dark: Subverted with Silas. Despite having his leg crushed very early on, he is still able to use his arms well enough to hold a sword. Though both he and everyone else acknowledges he should stay out of the thick of the fighting, he's still able to defend himself well enough.
  • Nunnally uses this belief to her advantage in Of Siblings and Masks. Being a wheelchair user, people think of her as frail. This accentuates her image as kind and loving, but it's really all a mask she puts on. Nunnally is spiteful, intelligent, and anything but helpless.
  • My Sister Leni: Leni has this viewpoint of herself in the latter half of the fic. Leni is autistic and, as a teenager, she becomes depressed because she has difficulty doing things compared to her family. She begins worrying that she's a deadweight who can't do anything right. Eventually, Leni gets through this Internalized Categorism.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Subverted horribly in the film, Blindness. The men of ward 3 prove not to be harmless, and end up being harmful instead. Their self-appointed leader has a gun and ends up hoarding the food from the other wards. At first, they demand valuables from everyone else in exchange for food. Unfortunately, when they have all of the valuables they then demand the women service them for food.
  • In Mr. Holland's Opus, Mr. Holland is quite aware of this trope and wary of it. When his wife suggests that their deaf son be sent to a special school, he's against the idea, claiming they'll "treat him like he's retarded."
  • A Quiet Place plays with this in Regan's case. While she's deaf, she's no more helpless than the other characters when it comes to dealing with the monsters besides that she won't hear them coming (as demonstrated in one scene). However, her deafness can be inferred to be the reason why Lee doesn't take her on errands, even when she volunteers to, as he's probably acting out of concern about her accidentally making a noise or being near a noisy animal (or person) because she won't be able to hear it but she interprets it as him blaming her for Beau's death.
  • In the 1918 film Stella Maris, the titular Stella was born paralyzed. Her wealthy guardians decided to coddle her and keep her sheltered from the outside war. Stella didn't know of murder, starvation, or war until adulthood when she had surgery so that she could walk.

  • An urban legend tells the tale of a guy who has one of his car's tires deflated while in front of a lunatic asylum. While he changes the tire he puts the bolts on the rim, just as a car goes through, scattering them. The man is unable to find the bolts he needs, so one of the patients tells him to use one bolt from each other wheel. He does and is surprised that the lunatic had that good idea. The patient's response? "I'm crazy, not stupid."

  • Averted in Dragon Bones: Ward is grabbed by a man who thinks that because Ward seems to be intellectually disabled, he can't defend himself. Gentle Giant Ward throws him to the other side of the room, exclaiming that he loves wrestling. Later on, he decides to take his younger sister Ciarra with him when he leaves the castle, as he suspects some men may feel tempted to molest a girl who can't cry for help. (When the heroes later witness an attempted rape, it becomes clear that Ciarra isn't all that helpless ... she wounds one of the rapists so badly that Ward has to finish him off in a Mercy Kill)
  • Most adults treat Agnes Thatcher, who is deaf, this way in Is That You, Miss Blue? and some girls even set her up with a blind guy at a dance. She especially resents people writing notes to her since she's an expert lipreader and will write "What?" in reply.
  • In The Baby-Sitters Club spin-off series Little Sister, Karen's class gets a new girl named Addie who has cerebral palsy and so uses a wheelchair. Karen takes it upon herself to help Addie — which means she does everything for her, despite both Addie and Ms. Colman telling her that Addie is perfectly capable of doing things for herself (such as sharpening her pencils). She doesn't listen, and both the readers and Addie get seriously ticked off.
  • Elizabeth Bathory's feelings of self-loathing in Count and Countess are a result of this mindset. (She has severe epilepsy throughout the novel.) She later subverts it, however, making her more of a Handicapped Badass.
  • In the Codex Alera series, Tavi cannot furycraft, an ability everyone else in the world possesses. Even though he is extremely intelligent and otherwise normal, he was treated as disabled and almost helpless when growing up, because of this lack. He eventually turns that to his advantage during his short but eventful career as a spy, a profession where being underestimated is usually beneficial. Especially when he does get the hang of furycrafting later on.
  • In the novel Doctors, psychiatric intern Barney is shocked to realize that the man he's been talking to is one of the patients rather than a fellow doctor because the man has proven himself to be so intelligent. The same man continues to impress him throughout his time spent on the ward, with his impeccable knowledge of Shakespeare.
  • In the Sweet Valley High novel "That Fatal Night", football star Ken Matthews is blinded in a car accident. Despite initially trying to take care of himself, he comes to believe this trope, to the point where his would-be girlfriend is waiting on him hand and foot and feeling guilty for not being at his beck and call. She finally blows up at him over his ingratitude, at which point he finally realizes that he ISN'T incapable of taking care of himself.
  • Averted in the novel A Single Shard, with the character of Crane Man, who was born with a bad leg (so, like a crane, he can only ever stand on one). He's used a stick his entire life, and despite some limited mobility and extreme poverty (other people in the village won't hire him for his bad leg, and he has no family to look after him) is able to not only take care of himself but raise a child, Tree-Ear. Tree-Ear even is confident that Crane Man can take up his wood-chopping duties for Ming's household when Tree-Ear is sent on a mission.
  • In Children of the Black Sun, it's discussed in relation to Isidro's crippled arm. He emphatically does not want to be useless or a burden, and doesn't think he is, but believes that a lot of other people will now see him that way. In particular, he resents the fussing of Rhia, the medic Isidro acknowledges that she means well, but still thinks she treats him like a dim-witted child.
  • This is certainly the mindset that Agnes' family and friends have towards her in Run. While there are a few things that Agnes does need help with, such as if she's in an unfamiliar place with unfamiliar voices, she's quite independent. It takes befriending Bo to give her the confidence to start striking out on her own.
  • Brightheart from Warrior Cats was mauled by a dog before she could become a warrior. This left her with a scarred face, one missing eye, and heavy emotional trauma. Despite the others suggesting she retire early, Brightheart refuses to abandon her desire to be a warrior and learns how to fight while partially blind.
  • The Berenstain Bears: Discussed in the chapter book The Berenstain Bears and the Wheelchair Commando. Harry McGill, who's in a wheelchair as a result of a car crash several years ago, doesn't appreciate it when people (such as Queenie McBear) think this way about him and treat him differently as a result; he snaps at anyone (even adults) who does, whether intentionally or not, and tends to mistake anyone being friendly for believing this way. He learns better when, after he takes offense to Brother Bear standing up for him, he's told that Brother has a reputation for standing up for those who are being bullied for any reason. This leads to his lightening up and getting new friends.
  • Nick Andros in The Stand has to remind people that deaf-and-dumb doesn't mean stupid. In fact, he's one of the more intelligent characters in the story.
  • Played straight in Troubled Blood. The Athorns are disabled and despite living independently, almost ruin Dr Brenner's life (although he was a bit of a jerk) and are dependent on their "social worker", Clare who is actually Janice in disguise and lived with Margot's body in their flat without knowing the difference for twenty-five years.
  • In Wicked, Nessarose was born without arms. Nessa is seen as delicate by her family and requires a lot of assistance, but her disability doesn't otherwise hinder her character. She still goes to college and ends up getting into politics, ultimately ending up the Wicked Witch of the East.
  • In the original "The Little Mermaid," the mermaid-turned-human had to surrender her tongue and cannot speak. The prince she loves takes her into his household, but he treats her like a permanent dependent, almost like a pet or a child. She is happy just to be near him, but it foreshadows that she can never be his real love — which is bad for her, because she will die if he marries anyone else.

    Live-Action TV 
  • On Degrassi High, Maya's friends neglect to invite her to a movie because the public buses don't have lifts and the theater they're going to doesn't have a wheelchair ramp. She finds out and tells them off for not even asking when she has a van and knows many places that can accommodate her.
  • When Clark goes blind in one episode of Smallville, his parents think that stepping out of his normal line of sight would be far enough away for him not to hear them talking about him.
  • On One Life to Live, upon meeting his ex-wife's father (who has ALS), Andrew proceeds to talk to him very loudly. After a while, the man tells him (his throat muscles are paralyzed, but he communicates with a computer) that he can hear him just fine.
  • On Malcolm in the Middle, Malcolm's friend Stevie, who is an asthmatic wheelchair user, is treated this way by his parents because there are alarms placed all over his bedroom to monitor his whereabouts (this is understandable in case he falls out of bed, but the alarms are literally all over the room), he is not allowed to use the X-Acto knife that Malcolm brings with a model kit, and he is not even allowed to eat pizza. In a season 3 episode, Reese lies that Stevie is dying so he can set him up with a pretty girl, and the girl and her friend infantilize him.
  • Subverted (in grotesque fashion, of course) by Hannibal. Peter Bernadone, who spends his days caring for rescue animals, was kicked in the head by a horse and is mentally disabled as a result. He's abused and framed by his social worker, a psychopath and serial killer, who killed a friend of Peter's. When the FBI comes calling, said social worker decides to punish Peter by releasing all his animals and murdering Peter's horse with a hammer. When Will turns up at the barn, however, he finds that Peter doesn't need rescuing... since he's already overpowered his social worker and sewn him inside the corpse of the horse so he'll have an idea of how his victims suffered. Even Hannibal's taken aback at that one.
  • Red Dwarf: This trope is basically the plot of "Nanarchy"; Lister lost an arm at the end of the previous episode, and Kryten treats him like he's totally helpless. Such as trying to feed him, despite Lister still having one perfectly good arm.
  • An interesting version appears in the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode, "Melora". A scientist named Melora from a race called Elaysian comes to DS9 and because her home planet has much lighter gravity, she has to wear braces on her body and use a wheelchair to get around in any environment with "normal" gravity. Being very sensitive to her condition, she ends up lashing out at anyone who tries to help her, thinking that they're seeing her as helpless or weak. After Bashir calls her out on this, she starts to cool down and the two of them become friends and a little bit later, romantically involved.
  • Defied by Chief Engineer Hemmer on Star Trek: Strange New Worlds. He's blind, but being of the Aenar subspecies of the Andorians, his other senses (especially his telepathy) are strong enough to compensate.
  • "Blind Ambition," an episode of The Golden Girls, puts this trope through the paces. Rose's sister Lily, who has completely lost her vision, comes to visit her in Miami. Lily is an extremely adventurous and independent woman and doesn't want anyone treating her differently because of her blindness—to the point where she refuses to use any of the resources available to her to learn new skills. Rose doesn't say anything for fear of offending Lily, and things are well until Lily is using the girls' stove for the first time and nearly starts a huge grease fire. She then breaks down and admits that she's terrified of life now, and begs her sister to help. Rose agrees but realizes that Lily is now going too far in the opposite direction and becoming wholly dependent on her (to the point of asking her for help with even the simplest of tasks that she did herself earlier in the visit). After a bit of Tough Love, Lily realizes that she needs professional assistance and joins an academy for the blind, where she learns the techniques she needs to live an active life without sight (and she does indeed—the episode ends with her driving Rose home!).
    • Another episode plays with the trope by having Blanche make a date with a handsome man in a library...but it's only after she leaves that the audience learns that he's in a wheelchair. When he comes to pick her up, there's quite a bit of awkward conversation about it, and Blanche is initially reluctant to pursue the relationship because of his disability. She eventually comes around and they have a great time... until she discovers that he's married and cheating. The man then invokes the trope, claiming that he needs sympathy as his wife "doesn't understand him" after his accident. Blanche shuts him down by pointing out that she does—he's a cheater, plain and simple. It's almost as if the writers were deliberately using this trope on the audience, as we're led to believe that a person with any sort of disability must be a pure, good person, given how they're usually portrayed in fiction.
  • Inverted in Monk with Faux Affably Evil Fat Bastard billionaire Dale Beiderbeck. Despite being 800 pounds and bedridden, he's seen as The Dreaded because of his powerful connections, his wealth, and his great intellect making him more of an Evil Cripple than anything. In his introductory episode, Sharona plays this trope straight initially after Monk warns her that she doesn't know what he's capable of, but VERY quickly finds out just how Wrong Genre Savvy she is.
  • Avocado Toast: Inverted. Marvin is missing both hands due to severe past injuries, but is quite skilled at using what's left in gripping things and never once asks for help from other people.
  • This is also exploited in the Law & Order: Criminal Intent episode "Red Dwarf", where the murderer, a Stephen Hawking-Expy, almost manages to frame his Trophy Wife for Domestic Abuse and murder (of one of his colleagues) by making the detectives believe this trope. They soon realize that the wife has an alibi for every instance where he got hurt and that while he is in fact disabled, he isn't nearly as immobilized as he claims to be.

  • Subverted with Evelyn Evelyn. They're Conjoined Twins with deeply traumatic pasts but they are also self-taught musicians who just want to be popular.

  • This attitude is invoked by the title of The BBC Radio 4 disability issues programme Does He Take Sugar?, referring to the assumption that disabled people can't speak for themselves, even on a simple question like that.

    Video Games 
  • Illidan in Warcraft III lampshades this trope, with one of his normal lines being "I'm blind, not deaf!"
  • Joker in Mass Effect says he got this treatment in flight school when he was younger due to his brittle-bone disease and difficulty walking without leg braces or crutches.

    Visual Novels 
  • Cheerfully averted (possibly even defied) in Katawa Shoujo: Rin has no arms and paints with her dextrous feet; Emi has no legs and runs track using prosthesis; Shizune is deaf-mute and serves as an effective and ruthless Student Council President (with a Translator Buddy). Indeed most of their real problems are only partially informed by their disabilities; for example, Shizune is extremely extroverted and eager to interfere in other people's lives because her inability to speak makes her isolated and easy to ignore, but also due to the influence of her over combative father.

    On the other hand, Hisao tends to internalise this at times, and realising that this trope isn't true for Hanako is one of the main goals of her arc — after she suffered a panic attack in class, he started thinking of her as someone helpless he needed to protect, instead of an equal romantic partner like Hanako wanted. In the good route, Hisao figures out that while Hanako might need more help in different areas to him, they both need someone to help and support them, and that Hanako can do that for him just as well as he can do it for her. In the bad routes, he either fails to realise this but still earns Hanako's friendship, or pisses her off so bad in his attempts to coddle her that she blows up at him, demanding that he leaves. Ouch.
  • Played With in Little Busters! when it comes to Riki's narcolepsy. On the one hand, none of the other characters ever treat him differently for it, his friends have known him long enough that when he needs help they give it without having to think about it, and he says early on that he never thanks his friends for taking care of him when he falls asleep because they're all just used to it. He mentions that narcolepsy makes him feel uneasy, but he just doesn't really think about it very often. However, late in Rin's route, there's a time when he really needs to earn money, but ends up falling asleep while picking fruit, the only option available to him. The woman he was working for feels terribly sorry for him once he wakes up and offers him money anyway, but that just makes him feel even worse, and he ends up crying as he walks home, thinking that a person with his disability would never be able to do anything but office work and that he's truly helpless right now... but at the time he was going through a hell of a lot of stress and had many reasons for feeling weak that had nothing to do with his disability, so it's uncertain how much of that was stuff he truly believed and how much was just the depression getting to him. All in all, a pretty damn nuanced and respectful depiction of disability that doesn't try to oversimplify things. And given that Riki has a very complicated arc relating to him realising his strength that only rarely brings up his disability, he's definitely not portrayed as uniformly helpless.

    Web Comics 
  • In Something*Positive Dahlia challenged Monette to sit in her wheelchair for one trip (while she can use a wheelchair as a walker). Later Monette remembers Dahlia's dad used to work at a helicopter factory.
    Monette: ... I don't know how Dahlia sat in that chair for ten years without killing someone.
    Dahlia's mom: She did it with patience, friends, and a father who helped her calculate the proper ramming speed in an electric wheelchair to correct other people's assumptions.
    Monette: No chair-mounted gun turret? And I thought he was a real Texan.
  • The Schetch Pad averts this for the most part. One of the few exceptions is a double subversion: he apparently has trouble with right-side driving.
  • The "deaf people need menus in Braille" variant happens in this strip of That Deaf Guy.
  • In one Arthur, King of Time and Space contemporary arc postscript strip in The Hero of Three Faces, someone suggests to Fasha (who is in a wheelchair due to her version of the Incurable Cough of Death in the baseline arc) that she try yoga. Fasha replies that, as the person in the wheelchair, she understands her own situation better than a random person encountering her for the first time, and that anything they think of, she's probably already thought of herself.
    Woman: You don't have to be nasty.
    Fasha: Yes I do! That's one of the things I know better than you!

    Web Original 
  • At the Superhero School Whateley Academy in the Whateley Universe, Greta is a genius inventor who is on a training team and likes to mix it up on the front lines. She's in a wheelchair, and she has real trouble getting her teammates to respect that she doesn't need to be protected constantly. In "Ayla and the Birthday Brawl" we see that some other people have spotted that this is now one of her team's big weaknesses.
  • This story from Not Always Learning has a teacher ask a blind kid to say something in sign language (which he doesn't know) on the first day of school and proclaim him too immature to attend school when he refuses.
    • Also, from the main Not Always Right site: This woman thinks that people in wheelchairs are totally incapable of doing anything on their own.
    • The crowning example from that family of sites may be this story from Not Always Working. A woman arrives for an interview, sees a man in a wheelchair, and tries to push him out of the building on the basis that disabled people can't work so he can't be working there. When he calls for his coworker brother to get her off him, she screams sexism and assault, justifying her treatment of the wheelchair-bound man by calling him "depraved". Finally, someone asks her about her interview appointment, and she says it was for an IT job. Guess who's the head of the IT department, would have been conducting her interview, and would have been her boss had she passed?
      Woman: [being removed by security] WHO WOULD WANT TO WORK FOR A CRIPPLE, ANYWAY?!
      Half The Office: ME!
  • In Dead West, the Merry Company seems to share this belief when it comes to the Porcelain Doctor. The young doctor only has a very bad limp and has to use a cane and sometimes Gervas' help to get around, but since he also looks eerily fragile, the Merry Company treats him like a baby. This annoys the hell out of the Porcelain Doctor, since he is perfectly capable of taking care of himself, thankyouverymuch. Gervas manages to avert this trope when they are alone, but since he has to play a role of a devoted lover for the othes, he sometimes engages in this kind of behaviour. Gervas himself hates this attitude since he knows exactly how much of a Handicapped Badass his friend is, but occasionally, when the doctor is sick, he cannot help himself, courtesy of the Devil's Veil. Which looks very weird, when he helps feeding his friend, just so the others won't do it.

    Western Animation 
  • Arthur:
    • In the episode "Prunella Sees the Light", Prunella invites her blind friend Marina over for a Henry Skreever sleepover. However, she worries that Marina may not see the decoration in her room or may get injured because she is blind. Marina doesn't like the special treatment Prunella is giving her, and fortunately Prunella learns to treat Marina just like any other friend. We also get to see the tricks and methods that Marina uses in her own house, but here they are her methods and her choices.
    • An earlier episode that flashes back to Buster being diagnosed with asthma has all his friends start dusting things off for him, to the point where he skips out on a trip to the nurse's office for his inhaler and pretends he's cured so they don't worry about it anymore. After that backfires on him, Buster decides to explain how asthma works to his class as part of his school project so they aren't so scared of it, and they begin to treat him like normal again.
  • An episode of Clifford the Big Red Dog has a three-legged dog. Clifford and T-Bone assume the dog needs a lot of help and Cleo believes the dog has, as she put it, "some kind of leg-losing disease" and if they came into contact with him, they too would get it. At the end of the episode, the dog calls them all out on this, explaining that while he appreciates their help (and sometimes does need it), he can do a lot of things himself, and assures Cleo he is not at all ill as she thinks.
  • In an episode of Little Bill, the titular character's friend Monty, who has cerebral palsy, joins his class at school. Little Bill tries to help Monty with everything without being asked, and ultimately pushes him away. Little Bill begins to see sense after getting the same kind of treatment at home.
  • This is also why Toph Beifong's parents in Avatar: The Last Airbender kept her so sheltered that even her existence was a secret. Why, their helpless little blind girl would obviously perish if allowed to leave the house for even a moment! When she proved to them that she is more than capable of handling herself, their reaction was to declare that she had been given too much freedom and will now be monitored 24/7, prompting her to run away to join Team Avatar as Aang's Earthbending teacher. This kind of upbringing presented a whole new set of problems for Toph later on in her life in The Legend of Korra in terms of relationships.
  • This was the villain's explicitly stated intention in one episode of Jackie Chan Adventures when he kidnapped Uncle and cast a spell that rendered Jackie mute, Jade deaf, and Tohru blind so they couldn't rescue him. Needless to say, they did anyway, and a lesson was learned by all.
  • Happens in an episode of Rocket Power. Reggie is in a snowboarding competition with another girl she recently befriended who happens to have a metal prosthetic leg. Reggie lets her win... and gets a What the Hell, Hero? from her dad and everyone else. The remainder of the episode is Reggie trying to figure out how to make it up to her new friend.
  • The Wild Thornberrys had an episode where Eliza meets a disabled girl in a wheelchair. Eliza begins to pity her and tries to keep her from doing things that may seem too dangerous for her. The girl calls her out on this and Eliza soon realizes that she was being too overprotective and that if she ever did need help, she wouldn't be afraid to ask.
  • John Callahan's Pelswick deals with this topic regularly, as nearly every adult on the show seems to believe this. The protagonist, while paraplegic, is far from helpless and generally lives a normal teenage boy's life when the adults don't interfere.
  • In the Adventures of the Gummi Bears episode "What You See is Me", after Tummi accidentally injures Grammi's leg offscreen, he starts to become too overbearing in helping her. It's only after meeting a blind woman who can perfectly handle herself does he learn that being disabled doesn't automatically mean that you're helpless.
    Tummi: [Tries to stir her tea] Here, let me.
    Grammi: Oh, Tummi, I can do that.
    Tummi: But look, you're an incapable, helpless...
    Grammi: I don't stir tea with my foot you know.
    Tummi: Good thing too.
  • Kim Possible: In the episode "Motor Ed", Kim is initially uncomfortable around Ron's friend Felix, a wheelchair user. She spends much of it being overly helpful and cautious around him as a result, at one point admonishing Ron for being so lax about Felix's disability. She later realizes how condescending she's coming across when Ron points out that all he's been doing is treating Felix like a normal person. Fortunately, it turns out Felix (and everyone else for that matter) finds her behavior more amusing than annoying:
    Kim: Felix, you go stand watch.
    Felix: You mean, sit watch.
    (Kim claps a hand to her mouth, utterly mortified.)
    Felix: Kim? I'm just playing you.
  • One episode of Teen Titans sees a child with a prosthetic arm approaching Cyborg and telling him that he's his favorite hero, because "they're the same." At the end of the episode (which centers on Cyborg overcoming his doubts about his robotic components), the same kid appears. This time, though, Cyborg tells him that what really makes them special isn't their prosthetics — rather, it's their ability to overcome the challenges they present and still enjoy life that makes them both heroes.