How to Interact with People with Disabilities

Interacting with People with Disabilities

  • Recognize that people with disabilities are ordinary people with common goals for home, work and family.
  • Recognize that physical disability does not mean mental deficiency, economic deprivation, or a sad existence.
  • Interact with people with disabilities respectfully. They don’t expect condescension or pity.
  • Speak in everyday language and normal voice level, unless a request is made to speak up.
  • Be aware of your body language and facial expression.
  • Recognize that some people appreciate a hand on a shoulder or arm; others do not. Be alert for cues.
  • When introduced to a person with a disability, it is appropriate to offer to shake hands. Be prepared to shake a left hand if needed.
  • Always speak directly to a person with a disability, not to a companion or someone nearby.
  • Be aware of a person’s capabilities. People with apparent disabilities undoubtedly have special abilities that you may not
  • If you are friendly, respectful, and interactive, you will be forgiven for any gaffes you make.

Wheel chair etiquette:

  1. Respect a person’s wheel chair or scooter as a person’s personal body space. Avoid leaning or hanging on to their device.
  2. Always ask the person using the wheel chair if she or he would like assistance before you help. If help is requested, listen to or ask for instructions.
  3. If a conversation lasts more than a few minutes, consider sitting down or kneeling to get on the same eye level.
  4. Don’t assume that using a wheelchair or scooter is in itself a tragedy. It is a means of freedom that allows the person to move about.

Interacting with a person who is hearing impaired:

  1. Speak directly to the person who is hearing impaired rather than through a companion or interpreter.
  2. To get the attention of a person who is hearing impaired, place yourself in their line of vision. Look directly at the person and speak clearly, slowly and expressively making sure that your lips can be seen.

Interacting with a person who is visually impaired:

  1. 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.
  2. If you offer assistance to a visually impaired person who needs to walk to a different space, listen to or ask for instructions.

Interacting with a person who has difficulty speaking:

  1. Listen attentively when you’re 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.
  2. If necessary, ask short questions that require short answers, a nod, or a shake of the head.
  3. Don’t pretend to understand if you are having difficulty doing so. Instead repeat what you have understood and allow the person to respond.

Be aware of a person’s capabilities.  People with apparent disabilities undoubtedly have special abilities that you don’t have.

Relax.  If you are friendly, respectful, and interactive, you will be forgiven for any gaffes you make.