People with disabilities are people first, like everyone else, and wish to be treated as such. There are certain ways that you should interact with people with disabilities. Here are a few examples of how to do that using disability etiquette.
· Use the term “person with a disability” rather than “disabled person.” Say “people with disabilities” rather than “The disabled.” For specific disabilities, saying “person with cerebral palsy” is preferable.
· Avoid terms like “handicapped,” “crippled,” “physically challenged,” or “wheelchair bound.”
· Don’t be embarrassed if you happen to use common expressions such as “see you later” or “did you hear about this” that seem to relate to a person’s disability.
· Speak directly to the person rather than to the companion or sign language interpreter.
· Treat adults as adults. Address people with disabilities by their first names only when extending that same familiarity to all others.
· Never patronize people in wheelchairs by patting them or touching them.
When meeting people who have physical disabilities,
· Offer to shake hands when introduced. People with limited hand use or an artificial limb can usually shake hands and offering the left hand is an acceptable greeting.
· Never lean against or hang on someone’s wheelchair.
· When possible, place yourself at eye level when speaking to someone in a wheelchair.
When meeting people with visually disabilities,
· Always identify yourself and others who may be with you. When conversing in a group, remember to identify the person to whom you are speaking.
· Never distract a work animal form their job without the owner’s permission.
· If you offer assistance, wait until the offer is accepted; then listen or ask for instructions.
When Meeting people with speech or hearing difficulties,
· Listen attentively when talking with people who have difficulty speaking, and wait for them to finish. If necessary, ask short questions that require short answers, or a nod of the head.
· When approaching a person who is deaf or hearing impaired, tap the person on the shoulder or wave your hand to get his or her attention. Look directly at the person and speak clearly, slowly, and expressively to establish if the person can read your lips. Try to face the light source and keep hands, cigarettes and food away from your mouth when speaking.
· If a person is wearing a hearing aid, don’t assume that they can discriminate your speaking voice. Don’t shout. Just speak in a normal tone of voice.
University of Texas at San Antonio. (2018). Disability Etiquette 101. Retrieved from: www.utsa.edu/events/documents/disability-etiquette-101.doc.
Mass Legal Services. (2013). The Ten Commandments of Communicating with People With Disabilities. Retrieved from https://www.masslegalservices.org/system/files/library/10%20Commdandments%20Commun_PWD%20(1)_2.pdf.