Screen Readers Skip to Content
🖶 Print page

Disability Etiquette and Awareness Information

NOTE: This article is over 3 years old and may not reflect current information, despite the page being updated. It may still be useful for research but should be verified for accuracy and relevance.

Published: 2010-05-06 - Updated: 2022-05-01
Author: Disabled World | Contact: Disabled World (
Peer-Reviewed Publication: N/A
Library of Related Papers: Disability Awareness Publications

Synopsis: Disability Etiquette and Awareness refers to educating people regarding disabilities and terminology or languages used when communicating with or about people with disabilities. Communication skills are vital in developing relationships with people with and without disabilities. 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.


Main Digest

What is Disability Etiquette?

Disability etiquette is considered to be a set of guidelines covering how to approach, and speak with, a person with a disability. Disability etiquette grew out of the Disability Rights Movement that began around the early 1970s. In addition, disability etiquette also refers to educating people regarding disabilities, as the biggest barrier's people with disabilities encounter are most often - other people.

Related Publications:

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 considered by some as being dehumanizing. Instead, if you need to refer to a person's condition, say a person who has epilepsy or a person who has diabetes. However, how a person chooses to self-identify is up to them, and they should not be corrected or admonished if they choose not to use identify-first language.

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.

(Article continues below image.)

Clip-art image of a boy wearing a blue top and brown trousers in a wheelchair.
Clip-art image of a boy wearing a blue top and brown trousers in a wheelchair.

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 List

Do Not Assume

Also See:

Tweet This Add to Facebook Post to Reddit

Disabled World is an independent disability community established in 2004 to provide disability news and information to people with disabilities, seniors, their family and/or carers. See our homepage for informative news, reviews, sports, stories and how-tos. You can also connect with us on Twitter and Facebook or learn more on our about us page.

Disabled World provides general information only. The materials presented are never meant to substitute for professional medical care by a qualified practitioner, nor should they be construed as such. Financial support is derived from advertisements or referral programs, where indicated. Any 3rd party offering or advertising does not constitute an endorsement.

Cite This Page (APA): Disabled World. (2010, May 6). Disability Etiquette and Awareness Information. Disabled World. Retrieved May 30, 2023 from

Permalink: <a href="">Disability Etiquette and Awareness Information</a>