According to the National Organization on Disabilities, there are 54 million men, women, and children in the USA with some type of disability.
In order to ensure that we accomplish the intended goals of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990, we need to learn some tips on interacting with individuals with disabilities.
Ask First and Ask Second - Don't Assume:
- Offer assistance to an individual with a disability only if the person appears to need it. If s/he does want help; ask exactly what you should do before you act.
Be Sensitive About Physical Contact:
People with disabilities consider their equipment to be part of their personal space so don't push or touch a person's head, wheelchair, scooter, or cane without being asked to do so.
Think Before Speaking:
- Always put the person first: "Person with a disability" versus "Disabled person" and "People with disabilities" rather than "The disabled." For specific disabilities, say "Person with Tourette's Syndrome" or "Person who has Cerebral Palsy." Avoid outdated terms like "handicapped" or "crippled." Be aware that may individuals with disabilities dislike jargon or euphemistic terms like "physically challenged" and "differently abled."
- Talk directly to the person with the disability, not to the companion, aide, or sign-language interpreter.
- Respect the privacy of an individual with a disability and do not inquire concerning the disability.
A Final Word
People with disabilities are individuals with families, jobs, hobbies, likes and dislikes, and problems and joys. While the disability is an integral part of who they are, it alone does not define them. Don't make them into disability heroes or victims. Treat them as individuals.
For additional and more inclusive information regarding disability etiquette written by Judy Cohen in conjunction with the educational efforts of the United Spinal Association, call 800-444-0120, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.unitedspinal.org.