Interacting with People with Disabilities

We all should know that, there’s a difference between when interacting with people with normal behavior and people with disabilities. There are few rules of etiquette that everyone should know when interacting with the disabled people.

The first and foremost rule that we all should understand is that they are also “Human”. We need to acknowledge their differences as we acknowledge anyone else’s uniqueness and also we need to treat them as normal. Never, talk down to them literally or figuratively. For instance, if they use a wheelchair, you can also use a chair and have a conversation if you are having a long discussion with them.

Another factor is that, People with disabilities have different preferences on which language they use. So it is must to ask the person how they would like to be referred to. Moreover, we should avoid the outdated terms like “handicapped”, “crippled” or “retarded”.

Additionally, we need to speak directly to a person with a disability, not to their companion or sign language interpreter. There will be a lack of immediate response but it does not indicate that the person can’t or won’t respond.

Adults with disabilities are adults and they deserve to be treated and spoken to as adults. We must let them to take decisions and should not make decisions for them. Do not tell them what to do or use baby talk. We should provide them with every option we provide those without disabilities. If the option they choose presents a difficulty concerning their disability, discuss ways you could modify or adapt the choice.

Just because someone has a disability, do not assume they need help. Do not give assistance without asking first if they want it. You can ask if the person would like help, but don’t ask repeatedly or qualify their response with “are you sure?” Respect someone’s choice even if it looks like they’re struggling. If there is a dangerous situation, help just as you would help someone without a disability.

A person’s mobility equipment, such as a wheelchair, scooter or cane, is part of their personal space. Do not touch or move it without permission, even if someone puts it down or chooses to leave it somewhere. Leaning on someone’s wheelchair is like leaning on their shoulder. Putting something in someone’s carry basket is like putting something in their backpack. It is vital that the owner knows where their equipment is at all times.

Listen attentively when you are talking with a person who has difficulty speaking. Be patient and wait for the person to finish, rather than correcting or speaking for the person. If necessary, ask short or close-ended questions that require short answers, a nod or shake of the head. Never pretend to understand if you are having difficulty doing so. Instead, repeat what you have understood and allow the person to respond. The response will clue you in and guide your understanding.

There are visible disabilities as well as non-visible disabilities, meaning not all disabilities are apparent. A person may make a request or act in a way that seems strange to you. That request or behavior may be disability-related. For example, you may give seemingly simple verbal directions to someone, but the person asks you to write the information down. He or she may have a learning disability that makes written communication easier. Even though these disabilities are hidden, they are real.

https://www.respectability.org/inclusion-toolkits/etiquette-interacting-with-people-with-disabilities/

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