Appropriate etiquette when interacting with people with disabilities is primarily based on courtesy and respect.
Beloved Shepherd LLC, a provider of habilitation services for individuals with disabilities, lists a few tips to help you communicate effectively:
- If you believe that a person with a disability requires assistance, go ahead and offer your help. However, make sure that they accept your offer first before you try to help.
- When talking to a person with a disability, talk directly to them – not their companion or caregiver. This applies whether the person has a speech impairment, a developmental disability, mobility impairment, or is deaf and using an interpreter.
- Use the same tone with everyone you converse with. Talk to the person with a disability the same way that you talk to someone without a disability. As a provider of respite services in Fort Wayne, Indiana, we have seen this principle work as we extend care to our clients.
- If at all possible, put yourself at the person’s eye level when you are talking to someone who uses a wheelchair. Never touch or learn on a person’s wheelchair or any other assistive device. Their wheelchair and assistive device is part of their personal space – respect their boundaries and don’t invade their personal space.
- If you encounter a person with a service animal (i.e. a service dog), please do not distract or touch the animal. Service animals are working. It breaks their training and concentration to interact with others when they are “on duty”.
- Adults with disabilities are adults – they deserve to be spoken to and treated as adults. As a provider of Support Service in Indiana, we discourage you from using “baby talk” or telling them what to do. Respect their decisions.
- If you are talking to someone with communication difficulties, be patient and wait for them to finish rather than correcting or speaking for them. If necessary, ask close-ended questions that require short answers. If you don’t understand what they said, ask them to repeat their answer – don’t just pretend to understand them.
- If you are interviewing a prospective employee with a disability, listen to what they have to offer. Do not make assumptions about what they can or cannot do because of their disability.
- If you are not sure what to do in a situation regarding a person with a disability (i.e. if you are worried that you are not communicating well), just ask.
The Bottom Line
Treat the individual with the same courtesy and respect that you would extend to other people. Focus on the individual (especially on how you can address their home health care needs) and not on their disability.