When it comes to speaking to a person with a disability, remember that first and foremost they are individuals with their own unique abilities, needs and interests. With one in five Americans having a disability, communicating with them is a skill that everyone should understand. The best rule of thumb is to speak exactly the way you’d like to be spoken to. Be yourself, be polite, respectful and courteous. To explain things in a little more detail, we’ve put together this list of 10 ways to communicate with people with disabilities.
- If you offer to help a person with a disability, wait until the offer is accepted and then listen to or ask for instructions.
- When speaking for a length of time to a person who uses a wheelchair or crutches, place yourself at eye level with that person.
- When talking to a person with a disability, speak directly to that person rather than through a companion or sign language interpreter.
- When introduced to a person with a disability, it is appropriate to offer to shake hands.
- When meeting or speaking to someone who is visually impaired, always identify yourself before speaking.
- Treat adults as adults.
- Avoid leaning on or hanging onto a person’s wheelchair.
- Listen attentively when you’re talking with a person who has difficulty speaking and don’t try to finish their sentences.
- To get the attention of a person who is deaf, tap the person on the shoulder or wave your hand.
- Try not to be embarrassed if you happen to use accepted common phrases, such as “See you later” or “Did you hear about that?” that seem to relate to a person’s disability.
For more information on similar topics, check out tour blog article on Using Positive Phrases When Communicating With and About People With Disabilities, 10 Things You Should Never Say To A Person In A Wheelchair, or Using People First Language.