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Interacting with People with Disabilities

Updated: Oct 17, 2023

Q: How do you interact with a person with disabilities?

A: A person with a disability is a human being with feelings and needs no different than your own.

Many people feel uncomfortable around people with disabilities because they don’t know how to act - or react. Or they may not know how or whether to help. The essence of good manners is the ability to put others at ease regardless of one’s discomfort.

Don’t make assumptions about what people with disabilities can or can’t do. They know better than you, so let them decide.

Address people with disabilities directly. Look them in the eye. Never refer to them in the third person in their presence (“Can she swim?”).

When talking to someone who is deaf or hard of hearing, turn toward him so he can read your lips. Unless asked to do so, do not speak slowly or loudly or over-pronounce words.

If an interpreter is present, face the person who is hard of hearing, not the interpreter.

Don’t pry. People with disabilities do not owe anyone a medical report. It’s rude to ask about their condition's source, duration, symptoms, prognosis, or limitations.

Use respectful terminology. Don’t define people by their disabilities. Always put the person first, not the disability. For example, say, “My friend who is deaf,” not “My deaf friend.”

1 Comment

Very good info!

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