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Disability Etiquette

Keep these basic principles of disability etiquette in mind:

- If you would like to help someone with a disability, ask if he or she needs it, and listen to any instructions the person may want to give.
- Be considerate of the extra time it might take a person with a disability to get things done or said. Let the person set the pace in walking and talking.
- Treat adults accordingly.
- Call a person by his or her first name only when you extend this familiarity to everyone present.
- Don’t patronize people who use wheelchairs by patting them on the head.
- Don’t be embarrassed if you happen to use common expressions that seem to relate to the person’s disability such as “See you later” or “I’ve got to run.”
- When planning events involving persons with disabilities, consider their needs ahead of time. If there’s a potential barrier, like a flight of stairs, narrow doors, or an inaccessible restroom, reach out and discuss the situation with them in advance.
- If you have a question about access, always ask it and don’t assume you already know the answer.

Disability etiquette when you're with a wheelchair user:

  • - Don’t lean or hang on someone’s wheelchair.
  • - Do remember that wheelchairs are an extension of personal space.
  • - Ask permission before touching someone’s wheelchair.
  • - Do place yourself at the wheelchair user’s eye level to spare both of you a stiff neck if you’re talking for more than a few minutes.
  • - Do consider distance, weather conditions and physical obstacles such as stairs, curbs and steep hills when giving directions.

Disability etiquette when you're with people who are blind or have low vision:

  • - Don’t grab a person’s arm in order to guide them.
  • - Do allow the person to take your arm. This will help you to guide, rather than propel or lead, the person.
  • - Do use specifics such as “left a hundred feet” or “right two yards.”

Disability etiquette when you're with people who are deaf or hard-of-hearing:

  • - Don’t shout.
  • - Do look directly at the person and speak clearly and expressively to establish if the person can read your lips. Remember, not everyone who is deaf or hard-of-hearing can lip-read. Those who do will rely on facial expressions and other body language to help understand.
  • - Show consideration by facing a light source and keeping your hands and food away from your mouth when speaking.
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