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Disability Etiquette and Awareness Information

  • Synopsis: Published: 2010-05-06 (Rev. 2016-09-24) - Disability Etiquette and Awareness refers to educating people regarding disabilities and terminology or languages. For further information pertaining to this article contact: Ian Langtree at www.disabled-world.com.

Main Document

Quote: "Do not put people with a disability on a pedestal or talk to them in patronizing terms as if their performing normal, everyday activities were exceptional."

Disability Etiquette and Awareness refers to educating people regarding disabilities, as the biggest barriers people with disabilities encounter are most often - other people.

Communication about people with disabilities

Language plays a critical role in shaping and reflecting our thoughts, beliefs and feelings. The way we refer to people can affect the way they are seen by others and the way in which they feel about themselves.

Some people prefer the term 'people with disabilities' because it puts the person first. A person with disabilities is not defined by their impairment. Nobody wants to be given a medical label. References such as 'an epileptic' or 'a diabetic' are dehumanizing. Instead, if you need to refer to a person's condition, say a person who has epilepsy or a person who has diabetes.

Avoid using language such as 'sufferers from' or 'a victim of' that suggests people with disabilities are frail or dependent on others, or which could make them objects of pity.

Do not use collective nouns such as 'the disabled' or 'the blind'. These terms imply people are part of a group which is somehow separate from the rest of society. However, there is one exception and that is 'the deaf'. This is the preferred term for many people who are deaf who use AUSLAN and see themselves as a cultural minority rather than part of the disabled community.

Communicating with people with disabilities

When communicating with a person with a disability, rely on your common sense.

Ask yourself how you would want to be treated and always be willing to adapt to a person's individual preference.

The basic principle is to put the person before the disability.

Communication skills are vital in developing relationships with people with and without disabilities. Common sense and courtesy tells us to treat people with respect - be patient and listen attentively, speak directly to a person with a disability even if accompanied by an interpreter or companion, never make assumptions about what people can do, don't attempt to speak, or finish a sentence for the person you are speaking to and never ask, "What happened to you".

Disability Etiquette

  • Treat adults as adults
  • Ask if, and what, assistance may be needed.
  • If help is required in a given situation, do not assist without asking first
  • Always respect the person's dignity, individuality and desire for independence
  • Refer to adults with a disability in the same way you would refer to any other adult.
  • Never assume you know what assistance, if any, a person with a disability requires.
  • Treat a person with a disability in the same manner and with the same respect and courtesy as you would anyone else.
  • Speak directly to the person rather than through the companion, attendant or sign-language interpreter who may also be present.
  • Never speak about the person as if they are invisible, can't understand what is being said or that they can't speak for themselves.
  • Do not put people with a disability on a pedestal or talk to them in patronizing terms as if their performing normal, everyday activities were exceptional.

Related Information:

  1. Information and Dates of Disability Awareness Programs
    /disability/awareness/
  2. Wheelchair Etiquette - Disability Awareness - Robin Kettle - (2009-02-01)
    https://www.disabled-world.com/disability/awareness/wheelchair-etiquette.php
  3. Language of Disability Awareness - Laura Gillson - (2009-01-28)
    https://www.disabled-world.com/disability/awareness/language.php




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