Disability Etiquette Tips

Reposted without permission from the Arcadia University web site.

People with disabilities are people. A disability does not define who a person is. Here are some tips for interacting effectively with people with disabilities.

  1. Avoid subconsciously dehumanizing people. Say “person with a disability” rather than “disabled person.” Avoid outdated words like “handicapped”, “crippled” or “mentally retarded”
  2. Be conscious that not all disabilities are visible. Just because you cannot see someone’s disability doesn’t mean it’s not real.
  3. Don’t assume that because a person has a disability, they are in need of assistance. If a person appears to need assistance, ask first. (Ed.- This applies to all people.) Offer your arm to a person who is blind–don’t grab their arm.
  4. Introduce yourself before making physical contact to a person who is blind.
  5. When speaking to someone who uses a wheelchair, sit in a chair at their level or step away so they do not need to strain their neck to maintain eye contact with you.
  6. Canes and wheelchairs are part of a person’s personal space. Do not touch them without permission.
  7. Provide written and oral instructions whenever possible.
  8. Speak directly to the person with the disability. Do not address their interpreter or companion.
  9. If someone has slowed or slurred speech because of a disability, be patient. Do not finish another person’s sentence. Ask to repeat if you did not understand.
  10. Rephrase, rather than repeat, statements that a person doesn’t understand.
  11. Service dogs are working animals—they are not meant to be petted. Do not ask to pet a service animal. It distracts them from their task.

For me, 5 and 6 especially. In general, there is no need to feel awkward. People with disability are, after all, just people. If we treat everyone with respect and common courtesy, I think we’ll all be just fine. What do you think?


Author: stephen

stephen harris is a writer, painter and a photographer who lives with his family in maine.

One thought on “Disability Etiquette Tips”

  1. I come across item number three all the time. People just don’t know whether to offer to help, to help proactively, or to be quiet out of fear of offending. This list has the right recommendation – just ask the person if they need help.

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