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The National Organization on Disability (NOD) reports that more than 54 million Americans have a disability.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 was conceived with the goal of integrating people with disabilities into all aspects of life, particularly the workplace and the marketplace. Sensitivity toward people with disabilities is not only in the spirit of the ADA, it makes good business sense. Practicing disability etiquette is an easy way to make people with disabilities feel welcome. You don’t have to feel awkward when dealing with a person who has a disability.
Here are some basic tips for you to follow. And if you are ever unsure how to interact with a person who has a disability, just ask!
1.Just because someone has a disability, don’t assume she needs help. If the setting is accessible, people with disabilities can usually get around fine.
2. Adults with disabilities want to be treated as independent people. So, offer assistance only if the person appears to need it.
3. A person with a disability will oftentimes communicate when he needs help. And if he does want help, ask how before you act.
4. One thing to remember is to be sensitive about physical contact. Some people with disabilities depend on their arms for balance. Grabbing them, even if your intention is to assist, could knock them off balance.Avoid patting a person on the head or touching his wheelchair, scooter or cane. People with disabilities consider their equipment part of their personal space.
Think before you speak
Always speak directly to the person with a disability, not to his companion, aide or sign language interpreter. Making small talk with a person who has a disability is great; just talk to him as you would with anyone else.
Respect his privacy.
If you ask about his disability, he may feel like you are treating him as a disability, not as a human being. However, many people with disabilities are comfortable with questions about their disability after getting to know someone. A simple “I don’t feel comfortable sharing that” by the person with a disability can set the tone if it is not something that she is willing to share.
Don’t make assumptions about people.
People with disabilities are the best judge of what they can or cannot do. Don’t make decisions for them about participating in any activity. Depending on the situation, it could be a violation of the ADA to exclude people because of a presumption about their limitations.
Respond graciously to requests from a person with a disability, just as you would any other person.
When people who have disabilities ask for an accommodation at your business, it is not a complaint. It shows they feel comfortable enough in your establishment to ask for what they need. And if they get a positive response, they will probably come back again and tell their friends about the good service they received.
And now some Terminology Tips to mention.
Put 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.
From Disability Etiquette: http://www.unitedspinal.org/pdf/DisabilityEtiquette.pdf