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7 Etiquette Tips for Interacting With Individuals With Disabilities

7 Etiquette Tips for Interacting With Individuals With Disabilities

No matter what kind of setting you’re in, it’s important to create an inclusive, welcoming environment for everyone, including people with disabilities. As a company that provides mobility solutions for people with disabilities, we understand the importance of promoting respect, empathy, and understanding in all interactions. 

We also understand that not everyone has a lot of experience interacting with individuals with disabilities and may be unsure about the proper etiquette. If you’d like to learn how to foster an inclusive atmosphere, keep reading to discover seven tips for having respectful interactions with people who have disabilities.

#1. Use Person-First Language

When interacting with individuals with disabilities, it’s important to use appropriate language and terminology. Many people prefer being referred to with person-first language. This means you say “person with a disability” instead of “disabled person.” This emphasizes their identity as an individual instead of defining them by their disability.

It’s also important not to use outdated or offensive terminology when discussing disabilities. Many terms people have used in the past to describe people with disabilities are now considered slurs. If you’re unsure about the correct language to use, ask the individual how they prefer to be referred to or how to describe their condition.

#2. Ask Before Assisting

If you see a person with a disability who appears to need help, don’t try to assist them without asking first if they do, in fact, need assistance. While your intentions are good, some individuals with disabilities prefer to maintain their independence and might not actually require anything from you at that moment. Simply asking first if they would like your help and respecting their answer preserves their autonomy.

While it’s crucial to respect the independence of individuals with disabilities, they may need your help in certain situations. If you’re assisting someone with a disability, let them take the lead and tell you what they need. Never assume you know the best way to help them; always ask what they require before stepping in.

#3. Respect Personal Space

Respecting personal space is an important part of any interaction, but it’s especially important when interacting with individuals with disabilities, especially if they use a mobility aid such as a wheelchair, cane, crutches, or walker. Mobility aids are like an extension of the person who uses them, so avoid touching them without permission. 

Additionally, never push a person’s wheelchair without permission. Imagine how you would feel if someone just picked you up and carried you somewhere — that’s how wheelchair users feel when people push them around without asking first. Always respect the autonomy of wheelchair users and allow them to be independent.

#4. Make Eye Contact and Address Directly

Just because someone has a disability doesn’t mean they aren’t capable of communicating. If the individual with a disability is with a companion, it may be tempting to address the companion instead. This can be frustrating to people with disabilities and make them feel infantilized.

When interacting with individuals with disabilities, treat them just like you would any other person by making eye contact with them and talking to them directly rather than addressing their companion. 

#5. Be Patient and Listen

If you encounter someone who has a hearing impairment, speech difficulties, or other communication barriers, it’s essential to be patient and avoid interrupting them or finishing their sentences. Allow them the time they need to express themselves and actively listen to what they’re saying, just like you would with anyone else. With a little bit of effort, you can help create a more respectful, inclusive society. 

#6. Avoid Making Assumptions

When you’re interacting with individuals with disabilities, avoid making assumptions about their condition and what they are or aren’t able to do. Every person’s abilities are different, so don’t assume limitations based on an individual’s appearance. Instead, let them guide the conversation and let you know if they need any accommodations, then do your best to provide support.

#7. Consider Accessibility

In order to create an environment suitable for people of all abilities, consider accessibility solutions for your workplace, office, store, or other business. Complying with ADA regulations ensures everyone who comes to visit feels comfortable and welcome and can easily get around.

Mobility Solutions from ParaQuad Mobility

If you or a loved one have mobility challenges, trust the experts at ParaQuad to provide solutions and independence. Our wheelchair-accessible vans and home stair lifts afford greater accessibility and autonomy to people with disabilities. Schedule a mobility consultation today to see how we can help you.

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