Here are 10 practical tips that will help you avoid feeling socially disabled when dealing with the disabled:
Mind Your P's and Q's
Remember, everything is relative: Some disabled writers have referred to nondisabled persons in general as TABs, for “temporarily able-bodied.”
- If you offer assistance, wait until the offer is accepted. Listen for information about what form the assistance should take.
- Speak directly to the disabled person, not through a third party. This tip is particularly important when addressing a hearing-impaired person and someone else is “signing” for him.
- Always offer to shake hands.
- Identify yourself and others to a visually impaired person. Always let them know when you are leaving the room.
- Treat adults like adults. Don't use a person's first name until someone asks you to. Don't pat. Don't patronize.
- Don't shout.
- Don't touch, lean on, or move a wheelchair without permission. Treat the chair as part of the person occupying it.
- Don't distract a working seeing-eye dog.
- When conversing with a person with a speech impediment, listen carefully and never pretend to understand. If in doubt, ask questions. Be patient. Don't interrupt or inject comments during pauses. Don't try to fill in a word for someone with a stutter. Don't raise your voice. Louder is not better.
- Don't fret about phrases. Speak as you would normally and don't worry about using expressions such as “running around” (to someone in a wheelchair), or “listen to that,” or “see you later.”