Disability Etiquette and Awareness Information
- Publish Date: 2010/05/06 - (Rev. 2020/02/06)
- Author: Disabled World
- Contact : www.disabled-world.com
Outline: 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.
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 1970's. In addition, disability etiquette also 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 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.
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
- Treat adults as adults
- Ask if, and what, assistance may be needed.
- Hand grocery or other receipts to the individual who is paying the bill.
- Only ask questions about the person's disability if you know that person.
- Ask questions of the person with a disability, and not of his/her companions.
- 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.
- Don’t discourage children from asking questions about disabilities. Most people are not offended by questions children ask them about their disabilities or wheelchairs.
Do Not Assume
- A person with a disability is easily offended.
- Rejection of aid is meant as a personal affront.
- That a person with a disability either wants or requires assistance.
- A person who appears to have one kind of disability also has others.
- A disabled person is dissatisfied with his/her quality of life, and is thus seeking pity.
- Companions accompanying a person with a disability are there strictly to render service.
- upon acceptance of your help, that you know, without being told, what service to perform.
- A person with a disability will be receptive to personal questions, particularly in a public setting.
- That when a person with a disability is in a public place, that they are being escorted by a caretaker, instead of traveling alone.
- That a person who does not appear disabled, or who uses assistive devices intermittently instead of all of the time, is faking or imagining their disability. (See invisible disability.)
- Wheelchair Etiquette - Explains the rules of etiquette when talking with a person in a wheelchair as well as people who use guide dogs.
- Disability or Disabled? Which Term is Right? - Differences and similarities in disability and disabled terminology including the right term to use.
- Politically Correct Language of Disability - PC examples of ways to address a person with a disability such as someone who is blind or deaf.
- 1 - Awareness Ribbons Chart: Color and Meaning of Awareness Ribbon Causes | Disabled World (2015/03/09)
- 2 - Awareness Dates: Days - Weeks - Months | Disabled World (2011/04/30)
- 3 - Teaching Children Disability Etiquette and Manners | Kimberly Carnevale (2009/01/28)
- 4 - Wheelchair Etiquette and Disability Awareness | Robin Kettle (2009/02/01)
- 5 - Disability Etiquette and Awareness Information | Disabled World (2010/05/06)