The rules of etiquette and good manners for dealing with people with disabilities are generally the same as the rules for good etiquette in society. These guidelines address specific issues which frequently arise for people with disabilities in terms of those issues related to disability and outline basic etiquette for working with people with different kinds of disabilities.
These should be regarded as general caveats of appropriate behavior. Since everyone is different, these guidelines only hold true for most individuals most of the time.
Ten Commandments of Etiquette for Communicating with People with Disabilities
- When talking with a person with a disability, speak directly to that person rather than through a companion or sign language interpreter.
- When introduced to a person with a disability, it is appropriate to offer to shake hands. People with limited hand use or who wear an artificial limb can usually shake hands. (Shaking hands with the left hand is an acceptable greeting.)
- When meeting a person who is visually impaired, 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.
- If you offer assistance, wait until the offer is accepted. Then listen to or ask for instructions.
- Treat adults as adults. Address people who have disabilities by their first names only when extending the same familiarity to all others. (Never patronize people who use wheelchairs by patting them on the head or shoulder.)
- Leaning on or hanging on to a person’s wheelchair is similar to leaning on hanging on to a person and is generally considered annoying. The chair is part of the personal body space of the person who uses it.
- 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. If necessary, ask short 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.
- When speaking with a person who uses a wheelchair or a person who uses crutches, place yourself at eye level in front of the person to facilitate the conversation.
- To get the attention of a person who is deaf, tap the person on the shoulder or wave your hand. Look directly at the person and speak clearly, slowly, and expressively to determine if the person can read your lips. Not all people who are deaf can read lips. For those who do lip read, be sensitive to their needs by placing yourself so that you face the light source and keep hands, cigarettes and food away from your mouth when speaking.
- Relax. Don’t be embarrassed if you happen to use accepted, common expressions such as “See you later,” or “Did you hear about that?” that seems to relate to a person’s disability. Don’t be afraid to ask questions when you’re unsure of what to do.
Full Potential Friday
This is an opportunity for our organization to go out to local businesses and do a 20-30 minute informative, engaging presentation on the history of disability services, disability etiquette, and how people can partner with our organization. I believe understanding the history of disability service and how our society has treated its most vulnerable citizens is a powerful illustration of both how far we have come and how much work is still left to be done. An overview of disability etiquette also provides people with some suggestions on how to respectfully engage people with disabilities while also feeling comfortable and relaxed enough to do so. I’m excited about the opportunity to inspire others to join the cause!
If you would like to host us for a future event, please contact Andrea Adams at (816) 983-2204.
Programs for Kids
Life Unlimited believes disability awareness should to begin at a young age. We offer two programs to help educate school aged children about different disabilities.
Kids on the Block is a show with nearly life-size puppets about kids with disabilities.This program is geared towards elementary students in grades 3-5. The different characters have:
Performances include 1-2 different skits about disabilities. There is an open question and answer session for the children after the show.
Performances are offered FREE to elementary schools; however, donations are appreciated.
Disability Kits provide hands-on classroom activities, including any necessary items, for students to “experience” having a disability. This program is for elementary school age students. The following kits are available:
• Hearing Impairment
• Vision Impairment
• Learning Disability
• Cerebral Palsy
• Developmental Disability
Disability Kits are available to classroom teachers for FREE; however, donations are appreciated.