Interacting with People with Disabilities

Relating with people with disabilities can be complicated but it is as easy as relating with any other person. First, accept and appreciate them as they are without taking so much consideration in their uniqueness. This step makes everything else follow suit easier than imaginable. Do not be too empathetic but then do not be ignorant as not to tailor your communication to suit the necessity of the conversation or interaction without offending the person in question.

Some people are uncomfortable talking with people with disabilities. This chapter gives you some basic tips to help you be more comfortable interacting with people with disabilities, and to help people with disabilities more enjoy interacting with you.

First, let’s look at the reasons that some people are uncomfortable with people with disabilities. One reason is that some people feel sorry for people with disabilities, and assume that they are bitter about their disabilities. This is untrue in many cases. Lots of people with disabilities feel that their lives are enriched by their experiences with disability, and even if given the chance to erase their disability would choose not to.

Another reason that some people are uncomfortable around people with disabilities is that they’re afraid that they will “say the wrong thing”. However, that’s not a big deal to most people with disabilities. What’s important is that you respect the person and see them beyond their disability.

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Avoid the “you’re so inspirational” remarks.

Watching your communication and foremost the words you use to regard to a person with any said disability is critical in making the conversation smooth and flow without stepping on one another’s toes. Giving so much weight into a person with disability’s character may be interpreted wrongly. Just remain as neutral and natural as you can to avoid being termed as exaggerating or flirting.

People with disabilities as a whole don’t like being referred to as “inspirational,” especially when they do a basic task like I dunno, go and buy some milk. And this happens all the time. While some people get inspired by us simply living our lives and can’t help it, please try to refrain from sharing your thoughts with us. We are just trying to live our lives like everyone else. Your comment will have the negative effect, reminding us how different people still think we are.

Whatever you do, don’t talk louder.

There’s still a large portion of the population that does one of the most offensive things you can do when interacting with someone with a disability – talking louder when speaking to us. Why do they do this even if they know we’re not deaf? They think we’re daft. Lesson to be learned: The presence of a mobility aid does not mean we’re can’t hear or are stupid. You’re speaking louder is.

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Tailoring your conversation and choice of words is core to a friendly relationship with a person with a disability. Knowing what to say and when to say it goes a long way in achieving a more satisfactory interaction. Avoid using terms in a way prone to misconception when referring to people with disability.

wheelchair-538138_640Put the person first. Say “person with a disability” rather than “disabled person.” Say “people with disabilities” rather than “the disabled.” For specific disabilities, saying “person with Tourette syndrome” or “person who has cerebral palsy” is usually a safe bet. Still, individuals do have their own preferences. If you are not sure what words to use, ask.Avoid outdated terms like “handicapped”, “crippled”, or “retarded.”Be aware that many people with disabilities dislike jargony, euphemistic terms like “physically challenged” and “differently abled.” Say “person who uses a wheelchair” rather than “confined to a wheelchair” or “wheelchair bound.” The wheelchair is what enables the person to get around and participate in society; it’s liberating, not confining.With any disability, avoid negative, disempowering words, like “victim” or “sufferer.” Say “person with AIDS” instead of “AIDS victim” or “person who suffers from AIDS.”It’s okay to use idiomatic expressions when talking to people with disabilities. For example, saying, “It was good to see you,” and “See you later,” to a person who is blind is completely acceptable; they use these expressions themselves all the time.Many people who are Deaf communicate with sign language and consider themselves to be members of a cultural and linguistic minority group. They refer to themselves as Deaf with a capital “D,” and may be offended by the term “hearing impaired.” Others may not object to the term, but in general it is safest to refer to people who have hearing loss but who communicate in spoken language as “hard of hearing” and to people with profound hearing losses as Deaf or deaf.

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