How to relate to people with disabilities
The progress made in society about disability is largely due to education, information and support by communities. One good thing is that people have come to appreciate that it was wrong to call people with disabilities names and keep them away from society. People with disability are very human, just like everyone else. Below are a few tips on some of the things you can learn to say and not to say about people with disability.
People First Language
Generally, refer to the person first, before the disability. This is known as People First Language. For example,
Say: People with disability, NOT Disabled People
Say: A lady with hearing loss, NOT A deaf and dumb person.
Say: People who use wheelchairs, NOT Wheelchair-bound people.
Say: Accessible parking, NOT Handicapped parking.
Say: He has autism, NOT The autistic boy.
Courtesy and respect
You probably have seen this symbol before — the blue and white symbol on your left. It is the International Symbol of Access (ISA). All over the world, the symbol is used to indicate that there are improved facilities for people with disabilities. It is used on car parks, public bathrooms and so on. It is important that you respect the symbol and do not interfere with it if you do not have a disability. Show respect by keeping places with the symbol free from barriers and obstruction.
Here are a few other things you can note when you interact with people with disability.
It is OK to offer a person with a disability some assistance, but ask before, and wait for them to accept it first. Then ask how you can best assist.
Address or call people with disability by the same way you call everyone else. If you use first names, then use their first name.
If you are introduced to a person with a disability and you want to shake hands, feel free to offer to shake hands. Using the left hand is also fine, if their disability does not allow them to use their right hand.
Treat adults with disabilities as adults.
Speak directly to the person with a disability. Do not be shy or afraid. If you cannot hear them (especially for people with speech impairment), it is ok to ask for the answer to be repeated. You can also repeat what you hear and ask if you got it right.
Do not hold or play with equipment that people with disabilities use, such as hearing aids, glasses, wheelchairs, white sticks and so on. These things are part of their personal space and you should respect that.
Do not touch, feed or play with specially trained dogs or animals for people with disability