Handicapped Woman Meets Condescending Shopper: What Would You Do?

Shopper is excessive in helping capable handicapped woman in WWYD scenario.

Feb. 22, 2011 — -- When is helping not helping? "How Would You Do It?" contest winner Amy Saffell has had a lifetime of experience. Confined to a wheelchair since birth, Amy has often been the recipient of well-meaning acts of kindness, which she says can sometimes verge on condescension.

CLICK HERE to read more about Amy.

In her winning entry, she pointed out that while often "What Would You Do?" sheds light on the mean-spirited bully, for her, sometimes hurtful comments arise out of ignorance.

So, we rigged Old World Food Market in Nyack, N.Y. with hidden cameras and hired actors. Actress Shannon DeVido, handicapped in real life, plays a shopper in a wheelchair. Traci Hovel plays an everyday shopper whose well-intentioned acts of kindness begin to border on ignorant harassment.

Watch the scenario unfold on a special episode of "What Would You Do?" Friday at 9 p.m. ET.

'I'm Sure You Mean Well but I Think You're Harassing Her'

When our actress Traci, playing the Samaritan, first sees Shannon, our capable handicapped actress, she immediately launches into a condescending tone which hits a nerve with Shannon.

The dilemma Shannon faces is not that she meets someone with cruel intentions but rather a naïve character who believes she is truly helping someone in need.

"And what's your name?" says Traci, speaking as though she is talking to a toddler, patting Shannon on the head.

Shannon appears to react with confusion and disbelief.

Despite Shannon's protests, Traci insists on helping her.

"You know what? I'm sorry. I just don't feel comfortable leaving you alone" says Traci.

"Why?" asks Shannon who slowly starts to move away from Traci.

"Because it's very hard for you to get around," Traci responds. "Let me just push you."

Condescending Shopper Offends Handicapped Woman

A man who is shopping nearby stops in his tracks and watches in awe as Traci grabs the back of Shannon's wheelchair.

"You know what? You've inspired me today," Traci says. "You didn't mean to but you inspired me and you should be applauded."

As only Traci starts clapping for Shannon, a woman within earshot stops and explains to an undercover WWYD staffer, who is posing as a fellow shopper, what she has seen and heard.

"She's trying to compliment her but it's coming out as an insult."

With Shannon in clear distress and Traci patting her on the head and applauding her "bravery" for shopping on her own, one bystander, Michael Sternlieb, decides to speak up.

"I'm sure you mean well, but I think you're bothering this girl" he says to Traci. "I don't think she needs your help. I'm sure you mean well, but I think you're harassing her."

Apparently dumbfounded by Michael's interpretation of her actions, Traci acts as though she is leaving Shannon alone but, as soon as he is out of eyesight, Traci is back next to Shannon only to be confronted by another shopper.

"Everyone lives their life in a different way and she is capable. So, she just wants you to leave her alone because right now, you're making her feel like she's not capable," says Angela Davenport-Conway.

Traci responds by explaining her sympathetic feelings: "But, we have fulfilling lives and her being in a wheelchair, it just puts her..."

But before Traci can finish her thought, Angela cuts her off.

"You know what? I'm sure she has a fulfilling life too," she says.

'I Don't Need That'

In another scene, it doesn't take long for people to notice Traci's naïve approach towards helping Shannon.

"Do you need some help?" Traci asks as she grabs a box of cereal.

"Oh my gosh, I'm good thanks. I don't need that," Shannon replies.

In the next aisle Lindsay Gleason and Pete Ramundo slow their pace and direct their attention towards Shannon and Traci.

"Let me just put that in my basket for you," says Traci as Lindsay and Pete approach the two women.

Condescending Shopper Offends Handicapped Woman

"I would leave this person alone. You're probably really bothering her" says an angry Lindsay Gleason.

When Traci objects, Lindsay responds, "She doesn't want your help. She's made it clear. I would just go away from her and let her shop. I mean, you're even upsetting me!"

As Lindsay and Pete move on, our actress, Traci, doesn't take the hint.

"Oh, do you need help? Usually people in wheelchairs need a little bit of help," Traci says.

Not knowing what else to do, Lindsay solicits the store manager, also an actor working with WWYD, to let him know how Shannon is being treated.

"She won't leave her alone. She's (Shannon) been asking her to leave her alone. She's pretty much harassing her," Lindsay says to our actor. They then decide it's time to confront Traci yet again.

"Is this not connecting?" Pete asks Traci, "You're not doing anyone a favor!"

As they explain to Traci that she is bordering on harassment, Lindsay has to assure her, "She doesn't feel sorry for herself. She's doing perfectly fine on her own."

When we decide it is time to meet Lindsay and Pete, we find that Lindsay is someone who knows this scenario all too well.

"I have a brother who's visually impaired and we go through these kind of situations all the time where people insist on helping him and they really just turn him around and get him lost. So it was really disturbing to me," says Lindsay.

Watch the scenario unfold on a special episode of "What Would You Do?" Friday at 9 p.m. ET.