Engaging People with Disabilities
Some basic tips to use when meeting a person with a disability:
- A handshake is not for everyone. If you are in doubt, ASK the person with a disability what they would prefer.
- Speak directly to the person with a disability unless instructed not to.
- Don’t patronize or talk down to people with disabilities. Treat adults as adults.
- If you don’t understand what the person is saying, don’t pretend to. Ask for clarification.
- Do not push, lean on, or hold onto a person’s wheelchair unless the person asks you to. The wheelchair is a part of his/her personal space.
- Rearrange your classroom furniture or objects if needed for a person with a disability before the person arrives.
- Know how to direct someone to accessible restrooms, exits, and water fountains in the building.
- When meeting a person who is blind, identify yourself and introduce others who may be present. Also, don’t leave without excusing yourself first.
- When asked to guide someone, never push or pull the person. Offer your arm and allow him or her to reach for you, then walk slightly ahead. Point out doors, stairs, and curbs as you approach them.
- Don’t pet or distract a service animal. The dog is responsible for its owner’s safety and is working.
- When meeting a person who is deaf, let the person take the lead in establishing the communication mode and talk directly to the person even when a sign language interpreter is present. He or she may also choose to lip-read or write notes.
- Use the reference “person with a disability” instead of “disabled person.” Individuals with disabilities are people first and should not be defined by their disability.
- Ask before you help. Don’t assume that people with disabilities always need assistance.
- If a person with Tourette makes vocalizations during a conversation, simply wait for him or her to finish, then, calmly continue.
People with disabilities are individuals with families, jobs, hobbies, likes and dislikes, and problems and joys. While the disability is an integral part of who they are, it alone does not define them. Treat all people as individuals.