disability etiquette

Disability Etiquettes: The Do’s and Don’ts

For those who aren’t used to it, interacting with people with disabilities can be an awkward experience. Still, with disability etiquettes guiding one’s way, a healthy environment for interactions between people with disabilities and people without disabilities can be created. . Disability etiquettes aim to encourage recognition and respect for people with disabilities. Understanding and acknowledging that people with disabilities expect to be treated with respect just like others and can make sound decisions on their own behalf is the core of disability etiquettes. There are some do’s and don’ts that illustrate how one should behave around people with disabilities. 

General Practices 

  • Always ask for permission first before helping a person with a disability. 
  • Offer a handshake. For a quadriplegic person a smile and a nod is a better alternative.
  • Address them directly when talking about them instead of talking to the person accompanying them. 
  • Never assume anything; if needed, ask. 
  • To encourage ‘Disability Pride,’ use words that respect the individual’s identity by acknowledging the person before their disability. For example – say “person who uses a wheelchair or wheelchair user” instead of” wheelchair-bound person.” 
  • Never point out and ask about their disability unless they talk about it first.

Interacting with people with blindness or low vision

  • Always announce your arrival and departure. 
  • When serving as a Sight Guide, always describe the environment and obstacles. And offer your shoulder or arm rather than grabbing the arms of people with blindness or low vision. 
  • Read restaurant menus, newspapers, and any other information when the need arises. 
  • Never disturb a Sight Guide.

Interacting with people with mobility disabilities 

  • Never touch a wheelchair or mobility equipment without permission. 
  • Do not stare, and always maintain eye contact with the person when talking to him/her. 
  • Maintain physical boundaries to avoid inciting pain, disturbing their balance, or invoking a PTSD response. 

Interacting with people with hearing disabilities 

  • Shift their attention towards you by gently tapping their shoulder or arm to start a conversation. 
  • When interacting with a person with hearing impairment who uses sign language, please look at the person while talking and listening and not at their interpreter. 
  • Please avoid any reflex to shout; it won’t help. Talk in normal intonation of your voice. 

Interacting with people with speech disabilities 

  • If you fail to comprehend their speech, please politely ask them to repeat their sentences. 
  • If you still fail to understand, please ask to engage via writing.
  • Never try to finish their statements for them. Practice patience.

Interacting with people with mental health disabilities 

  • Please pay attention to what they are saying. 
  • Talk at an understandable pace. 
  • Never shout around them. 
  • Do not assume the media stereotypes. 

The most important aspect is to empathize the fact that a person with disability is beyond their situation. Once you get to know a person, you open the door to endless possibilities. They may be the most interesting or creative person you’ve ever met. Never let a disability thwart you to know a person.


Swaraj Bhatia

Posted in DAND and tagged , .

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