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Disability Etiquette and Awareness Information

Author: Disabled World : Contact:

Published: 2010-05-06 : (Rev. 2020-02-06)


Disability Etiquette and Awareness refers to educating people regarding disabilities and terminology or languages used when communicating with or about people with disabilities.

Key Points:

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 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.
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:

Related Documents


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