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.
- Avoid subconsciously dehumanizing people. Say “person with a disability” rather than “disabled person.” Avoid outdated words like “handicapped”, “crippled” or “mentally retarded”
- Be conscious that not all disabilities are visible. Just because you cannot see someone’s disability doesn’t mean it’s not real.
- 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.
- Introduce yourself before making physical contact to a person who is blind.
- 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.
- Canes and wheelchairs are part of a person’s personal space. Do not touch them without permission.
- Provide written and oral instructions whenever possible.
- Speak directly to the person with the disability. Do not address their interpreter or companion.
- 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.
- Rephrase, rather than repeat, statements that a person doesn’t understand.
- 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?