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Disability Etiquette Tips
Wednesday, 06 May 2015 - 11:41 | Views - 1,929
Millions of people have disabilities, so it’s a good idea to understand the importance of maintaining proper etiquette when you interact with them. The most important thing to keep in mind is that they are people first. The disability is only one part of who they are, and if you talk to them, you’ll discover that you may have more in common with them than you initially realize.

If you have children, teach them that everyone deserves respect, including those who are disabled.

Spend time explaining the various things that can happen to people. Answer their questions and don’t try to inhibit their natural curiosity.

If your child approaches someone with a disability, allow the interaction to take place. The only time you should get involved is if your child creates an awkward situation by saying something mean or rude. If that happens, apologize, remove your child from the situation, and then explain to the child what would have been more appropriate behavior.

Degrees of Disability

If you stop and think about the word “disability,” you might discover that you have one. After all, disabilities come in a wide range of types and degrees. If you wear glasses, you have some degree of vision impairment. Someone who is considered legally blind can see light and some shapes, while a totally blind person can’t see at all.

Some forms of disability are invisible. For example, someone who has a heart condition may look perfectly healthy, but if you were to ask him to do something that requires a large amount of physical exertion, he probably won’t be able to do it.People with certain types of arthritis can hide their disability, but they can certainly feel it.

Proper Terminology

Learn the proper terminology before you embarrass yourself or the other person by saying something insensitive. Generally, if you acknowledge the person first before stating the disability, you are off to a good start. For example, rather than say “deaf man,” you might say, “man with a hearing impairment.”

Rules for Different Types of Disabilities

Each type of disability has its own rules. If you are ever in doubt about what to do, the best person to ask is the one who is disabled. Ask in a straightforward yet sensitive way to prevent hurting feelings or appearing boorish.

Rules for interacting with people who are vision impaired:

Always introduce yourself to let the person know you are there.
Alert the person when you are about to leave to avoid the embarrassment of him or her continuing a conversation with no one.
Mention a potentially dangerous situation in a calm voice.
When walking across the room with someone who has a vision impairment, offer your elbow.
Be specific with verbal instructions.

Rules for interacting with people who are hearing impaired:

Face the person who is hearing impaired.
If you are trying to get the person’s attention, and she doesn’t hear you, lightly tap her on the shoulder.
You may gesture with your hands, but make sure you don’t block your face.
Speak slowly but avoid treating the other person as though he or she can’t grasp the concept.
Be ready to repeat something using different words that may be easier to hear.
Have paper and a pen ready to jot notes for those who still can’t hear you.
Don't resort to yelling.
If the person uses an interpreter, focus your attention on the person with the impairment rather than the interpreter.

Rules for interacting with people who have mobility problems:

Greet the person as you would anyone else. This includes shaking hands, smiling, and saying, “Good morning.”
When shaking hands, accept the hand that is offered.
Avoid moving the person’s devices. If the person’s crutches or walker are in your way, reposition yourself instead.
Respect personal space at all times. This includes the urge to move someone’s wheelchair without being asked. You also don’t want to sit on the arm of the chair or lean against the back of it.
Interact with the person at his or her eye level. This may require finding a chair and sitting down.

Service Animals

Service animals are trained to assist people with a variety of disabilities, including vision impairment, hearing loss, and mobility impairment. When you see a person being led by a guide dog, avoid the urge to reach out and pet the animal. Remember that he is working, and a distraction could create a disaster for the person who is disabled.

Tips for how to act around service animals:

Don’t pet the animal without asking.
Don’t offer the animal a treat.
Avoid calling out the animal’s name.
Never distract the animal when he is doing a task for his master.
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