Screen Readers Skip to Content

Disability Communication: Etiquette and Communication Methods

Disabled World: Revised/Updated: 2019/10/31

Synopsis: Information concerning appropriate methods and etiquette when communicating with a person with a disability or health condition. Do not assume the individual wants to be pushed - ask first. Offer assistance but do not insist or be offended if your offer is not accepted.

Main Document

The word "Etiquette", is defined as a code of behavior that delineates expectations for social behavior according to contemporary conventional norms within a society, social class, or group. Manners is a term usually preceded by the word good or bad to indicate whether or not a behavior is socially acceptable.

The Americans with Disabilities Act, other laws, and the efforts of many disability organizations have made strides in improving accessibility in buildings, increasing access to education, opening employment opportunities and developing realistic portrayals of persons with disabilities in television programming and motion pictures.

Where progress is still needed is in communication and interaction with people with disabilities. Individuals are sometimes concerned that they will say the wrong thing, so they say nothing at all - thus further segregating people with disabilities. Listed here are some suggestions on how to relate to and communicate with and about people with disabilities.

Actions:

Etiquette considered appropriate when interacting with people with disabilities is based primarily on respect and courtesy.

Words:

Positive language empowers - Some circles advocate that when writing or speaking about people with disabilities, it is important to put the person first. Group designations such as "the blind," "the retarded" or "the disabled" are inappropriate because they do not reflect the individuality, equality or dignity of people with disabilities.

Further, words like "normal person" imply that the person with a disability isn't normal, whereas "person without a disability" is descriptive but not negative. We must keep in mind that the people first disability rights movement and its thinking is almost unknown outside the movement itself, and many people with disabilities themselves, say that "People First Language" is actually a waste of time, unable to prevail in the goal it sets out to do by its very nature, and that people first language actually sets us back in the goal of integration and equality for people with disabilities - People First Language: An Oppositional Viewpoint.

Tips for Communicating with Individuals with Cognitive Disabilities

Tips for Communicating with Individuals Who are Blind or Visually Impaired

Six students practice their communication skills - Photo by Akson on Unsplash.
Six students practice their communication skills - Photo by Akson on Unsplash.

Tips for Communicating with Individuals with Speech Impairments

Tips for Communicating with Individuals Who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing

Tips for Communicating with Individuals with Mobility Impairments

General Tips for Communicating with People with Disabilities

Points to Remember

Positive Speech Examples Vs. Negative Speech
Affirmative PhrasesNegative Phrases
person with an intellectual, cognitive, developmental disability retarded; mentally defective
person who is blind, person who is visually impaired the blind
person with a disability the disabled; handicapped
person who is deaf the deaf; deaf and dumb
person who is hard of hearing suffers a hearing loss
person who has multiple sclerosis afflicted by MS
person with cerebral palsy CP victim
person with epilepsy, person with
seizure disorder
epileptic
person who uses a wheelchair confined or restricted to a wheelchair
person who has muscular dystrophy stricken by MD
person with a physical disability, physically disabled crippled; lame; deformed
unable to speak, uses synthetic speech dumb; mute
person with psychiatric disability crazy; nuts
person who is successful, productive has overcome his/her disability

*Some information from the Office of Disability Employment Policy and The U.S. Department of Labor


Sub Topics

Related Topics and Academic References

Help Spread Disability Awareness
Connect with Us on Social Media
Cite: Journal: Disabled World. Language: English. Author: Disabled World. Last Revised Publication Date: 2019/10/31. Reference Title: "Disability Communication: Etiquette and Communication Methods", Source: Communication. Abstract: Information concerning appropriate methods and etiquette when communicating with a person with a disability or health condition. Retrieved 2019-11-16, from https://www.disabled-world.com/communication/ - Reference Category Number: DW#210-17.172.98-5c.
Important Disclaimer:
Information provided on disabled-world.com is for general informational purpose only, it is not offered as and does not constitute medical advice. In no way are any of the materials presented meant to be a substitute for professional medical care or attention by a qualified practitioner, nor should they be construed as such. Any 3rd party offering or advertising on disabled-world.com does not constitute endorsement by Disabled World. Please report outdated or inaccurate information to us.