Tips on how to treat people w/disabilities

DISABILITY TERMINOLOGY: PEOPLE-FIRST LANGUAGE INSTEAD OF SAYING: USE: Disabled -OR- crippled ­-OR- Person with a disability -OR- Lame -OR- afflicted -OR - handicapped Person who has a disability Confined to a wheelchair -OR- Person who uses a wheelchair -OR- Wheelchair-bound Person who has a wheelchair The mentally retarded People who have mental retardation The blind Person with blindness -OR- Person with low vision The deaf -OR- deaf mute -OR- Person who is deaf -OR- deaf and dumb Person with a hearing impairment Invalid Person who is paralyzed -OR- Person who has paraplegia/quadriplegia Crazy -OR- insane -OR- nuts Person who has a mental illness DISABILITY ETIQUETTE Why do we need disability terminology and/or disability etiquette? Because one in five Americans has a disability. That means approximately 49 million Americans have a disability, which makes people with disabilities the largest single minority group in the US. Kansas and Missouri have an even higher percentage (KS – 28%, MO – 32%). Only about 10% of all disabilities are visible. You are probably interacting with someone with a disability every day, perhaps without even knowing it. Disability doesn’t discriminate; it affects all people of all ethnic and religious backgrounds as well as socioeconomic statuses. Everyone is at risk to having a disability in their lifetime. People with disabilities in this country are still constantly striving for the same rights as those without disabilities. Many do work and many more would like to work. Those who work are constantly praised by their employers as being hard workers. However, many employers still fear hiring people with disabilities and often don’t see their abilities. Fear is also a hindrance in the community and in social activities; this isolates people with disabilities. Many people with disabilities are left alone at social functions or workplace gatherings because we are afraid to get to know them. If we remember that they are people who happen to have a condition that causes them to do things a little differently than we do, and are NOT the disability themselves, then we could avoid missing out on some great friendships and business associates. Sometimes we are not comfortable around people with disabilities because we don’t know how to act, what to say, or what to do. Two simple rules exist: Treat a person with a disability like a PERSON. If you’re not sure how to talk to or assist a person with a disability, ASK them. ETIQUETTE TIPS TO REMEMBER · People with disabilities are like anyone else; they have different personalities, likes, and dislikes. They deserve to be treated with dignity and respect, just as with anyone you meet. · It is always appropriate to shake hands when meeting people – even if they have limited hand use or paralysis. You may touch their hand to acknowledge their presence, or shake their left hand if extended in lieu of the right. · Before assisting people with disabilities, always ask if they require, need, or want any assistance. If they do, listen carefully to their instructions. Do not interfere with a person’s full control over his/her assistive devices. Never move crutches, walkers, or communication boards out of the reach of their owners without permission. · Do not lean on a person’s wheelchair or assistive device. This is considered part of his/her personal space. Just as you don’t like to feel crowded or invaded, neither do others. · If speaking to a person using a wheelchair for longer than a brief introduction, try to sit down so that you may converse at eye level. It is difficult for anyone to look up for long periods of time. · When speaking to people with visual difficulties or blindness, always begin by telling them your name and where you are. If offering assistance when walking, let them take your arm and tell them when you are approaching obstacles, inclines, steps, or turns. If they use a guide or service dog, do not pet the dog. This is a working animal to assist its owner and should not be distracted or petted. · When communicating with people who are deaf or hearing-impaired, speak directly to the person and not to his/her companion or sign language interpreter. The sign language interpreter is being used as a tool for communication, much in the same way as a telephone. Many people who are deaf or hearing-impaired can also read lips, so be sure to speak in a normal manner and avoid visually hindering communication, such as having your hands near your face or food in your mouth. Do not shout or speak into the other person’s ear. Body movements and facial expressions assist in comprehension. If communication is still not understood, it is always acceptable to write your message. · Do not be embarrassed to use common expressions like “see you later,” “have to run,” or “have you heard”. People with disabilities consistently use these phrases in their conversations. · When speaking to people who have speech difficulties, do not pretend to understand what they are saying if you do not. Simply ask them to repeat what they said. · People with disabilities normally do not want their disability to be the first topic of conversation. They will gladly share details of their disability after you have become better acquainted. · Remember that not all disabilities are visible. Just because someone doesn’t look as if he/she has a disability, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. · Always remember to use PEOPLE FIRST language. Always let the person with a disability guide you – remember to ask what terminology is preferred or what assistance may be needed. The person should be your best resource. You also have a right to set limits on what you can and cannot do (i.e. lifting, pushing, etc). Your relationship with a person with a disability should be like any other reciprocal relationship. Changing your attitude about people with disabilities by portraying them as regular folks will go a long way toward changing the attitudes of employers, politicians, and society. Let’s help overcome the barriers, both physical and attitudinal.


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