Tips on disability etiquette
Disability Etiquette is a set of guidelines to assist your interaction with people with disability when:
- Meeting them for the first time
- Writing about them
- Providing assistance
- Simply enjoying their company.
Of course you should show courtesy to everyone you meet, but some additional considerations will make your meeting with a person with disability more comfortable. Remember that everyone is different and will have individual preferences. It’s a good idea to ask the person what works for them and respect their wishes.
Here are some tips compiled by the Australian Network of Disability from their Disability Etiquette Guide:
- Avoid asking personal questions about someone’s disability.
- Be considerate of the extra time it might take for a person to do or say something.
- Be polite and patient when offering assistance, and wait until your offer is accepted. Listen or ask for specific instructions. Be prepared for your offer to be refused.
- Relax. Anyone can make mistakes. Offer an apology if you feel you’ve caused embarrassment. Keep a sense of humour and be willing to communicate.
- Use a normal tone of voice when welcoming a person with disability. Do not raise your voice unless you are asked to.
- Shake hands even if the person has limited hand use or wears an artificial limb. A left-hand shake is acceptable. If the person cannot shake hands, acknowledge them with a smile and a spoken greeting.
- When planning a meeting or other event, think about specific accommodations a person with disability might need. If a barrier cannot be avoided, let the person know ahead of time.
- Look and speak directly to the person with disability, not just to the people accompanying them, including interpreters.
- Don’t patronise or talk down to people with disability. Treat people with respect and dignity.
- Be patient and give your undivided attention, especially with someone who speaks slowly or with great effort.
- Never pretend to understand what a person is saying if you don’t. Ask the person to repeat or rephrase, or offer them a pen and paper.
- If requested to by the individual, offer your elbow or shoulder to a person who is blind or has low vision, to guide rather than propel them.
- It is okay to use common expressions like “see you soon” or “I’d better be running along”.