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Disability Awareness and Etiquette

Disability Awareness and Etiquette

Sometimes the biggest barriers people with disabilities encounter are other people. Often people do not know how to behave when confronted with a person with a disability. People may feel a bit awkward and do not know how to approach the person, how to look at him/her or how to help correctly and respectfully if help is indeed needed.

In order to help overcome these barriersdisability awareness and create a sense of comfort for both parties, guidelines have been developed which specifically deal with how to approach people with disabilities.

Most disability etiquette guidelines seem to be predicated on a simple dictate: “Do not assume …” They are written to address real and perceived shortcomings in how society as a whole treats people with disabilities.

Do not assume …“:

“… a person with a disability either wants or requires assistance.”

“… rejection of aid is meant as a personal affront.”

“… upon acceptance of your help, that you know, without being told, what service to perform.”

“… a person who appears to have one kind of disability also has others.”

“… a person with a disability is dissatisfied with his/her quality of life, and is thus seeking pity.”

“… a person with a disability is easily offended.”

“… that a person who does not appear to have a disability, or who uses assistive devices intermittently instead of all of the time, is faking or imagining their disability.”

“… companions accompanying a person with a disability are there strictly to render service.”

“… a person with a disability will be receptive to personal questions, particularly in a public setting.”

“… that when a person with a disability is in a public place, that they are being escorted by a caretaker, instead of travelling alone.”

Basic tips

  • Avoid asking personal questions about someone’s disability.
  • Be considerate of the extra time it might take for a person with particular disabilities to do or say something.
  • Be polite and patient when offering assistance, and wait until your offer is accepted. Listen or ask for specific instructions.  Be prepared for your offer to be refused.
  • Relax.  Anyone can make mistakes.  Offer an apology if you feel you’ve caused embarrassment.  Keep a sense of humour and be willing to communicate.

 Speaking or writing

  • Refer to a person’s disability only when necessary and appropriate.
  • Refer to the individual first, then to their disability (i.e. “person with disability,” rather than “disabled person”).
  • The following terms should be avoided because they can have negative meanings: invalid, able-bodied, wheelchair-bound, victim, crippled, defect, suffers from, handicap, a patient.
  • Avoid terms that imply that people with disabilities are overly courageous, brave, special, or superhuman.

Face to face communication

  • Use a normal tone of voice when welcoming a person with disability. Do not raise your voice unless you are asked to.
  • Shake hands even if the person has limited hand use or wears an artificial limb. A left-hand shake is acceptable. If the person cannot shake hands, acknowledge them with a smile and a spoken greeting.
  • When planning a meeting or other event, think about specific accommodations a person with a disability might need. If a barrier cannot be avoided, let the person know ahead of time.
  • Look and speak directly to the person with disability, not just to the people accompanying them, including interpreters.
  • Don’t patronise or talk down to people with a disability. Treat adults as adults.
  • Be patient and give your undivided attention, especially with someone who speaks slowly or with great effort.
  • Never pretend to understand what a person is saying if you don’t. Ask the person to repeat or rephrase, or offer them a pen and paper.
  • If requested to by the individual, offer a person with a vision impairment your elbow, to guide rather than propel them.
  • It is okay to use common expressions like “see you soon” or “I’d better be running along”.

The main thing to remember is that a person with disability is just like everyone else – treat the person as you would want to be treated.

If you would like to speak with a psychologist or counsellor in Perth, you are very welcome to contact Vision Counselling and Psychology to find out more about the NDISWA NDIS and disability services.

Article Title: Disability Awareness and Etiquette
Article By: Vision Counselling and Psychology, Perth Western Australia
Web Address: www.visioncounselling.com.au
Published: 24/11/2014
 
[1]http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Disability_etiquette (Accessed: 2014, September 5)
[2]http://www.abil.org/disability-etiquette-tips/ (Accessed: 2014, September 5)
[3]http://www.and.org.au/pages/etiquette.html (Accessed: 2014, September 5)
Image Reference: Dollar Photo Club

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