Etiquette Tips

General Courtesies:

People with disabilities want to be called PEOPLE first and most of all. Therefore, what is polite is to speak of 'people with disabilities,' 'people who are [blind],' 'people who have [epilepsy],' or 'people who use wheelchairs.' Please do not use words like victims, sufferers, invalids, afflicted, crippled, confined or handicapped when speaking to or about people with disabilities.

General Service Practices:

  • Certainly ask a person if you may be of help. But, don't assume you are needed and don't expect a 'yes' answer. Many people with disabilities like to do things on their own just like anyone else. If your offer is accepted, wait or ask for instructions on how you can help.
  • If there is an emergency, check if there are people who seem unaware of what is going on or unsure what to do. Quickly and calmly alert them and assist them if necessary.

To Serve a Person Who:

Has a Visual Impairment:

  • If the person asks for assistance in guiding them around, offer your arm for the person to take; do NOT take hold of the person's arm. Keep the person informed of where you both are and what's coming as you walk. Mention things like level changes in the floor or ground, turns, entrance into a building, and exiting.
  • Put your arm behind you when walking through a doorway. The person being guided will thus be walking behind you as you go through the doorway.

Has a Hearing Impairment:

  • Ask the person how the two of you can best communicate: by speaking or writing.
  • If you speak to the person, speak as you would to anyone else. Look at the person at all times and don't block your face or mouth, as the person might be lip-reading.
  • If a sign language interpreter is with the person, speak directly to the person as if the interpreter were not there.

Has a Communication Impairment:

  • Use simple, short sentences and words that are easy to understand but be sure you treat the person with respect.
  • Give the person a little more time than you give most people to respond to what you said.
  • If you do not understand what the person is saying ask them to repeat it. Make sure you do understand; do NOT pretend to understand.

Has a Speech Impairment:

  • Give all your attention to what the person is saying; do NOT fill in the ends of the person's sentences.
  • If you think you understand part of what the person is saying, ask questions the person can answer with a nod or shake of the head.
  • Ask the person to repeat anything you don't understand.
  • If you don't understand even after repetition, ask the person to write down AND repeat the message. (This will help you to understand the person's speech for future conversations.)

Uses a Wheelchair:

  • Push the wheelchair ONLY if the person asks: do NOT lean or rest on the chair.
  • If you have a conversation with the person squat down so you are at eye level with the person while you're talking.
  • Treat adults in a manner befitting adults. Do not patronize people in wheelchairs by patting them on the head or shoulder.

Etiquette Tips:

Here are a few tips you might find useful to minimize hurt feelings or awkward moments. First of all, remember that common sense and basic courtesies will usually provide your best guidance. Other points to keep in mind are:

  • Relax. Don't be embarrassed if you happen to use an accepted, common expression, such as 'See you later' to a person who is blind or 'Got to be running along' to a person who uses a wheelchair.
  • When writing or speaking about a person with disabilities, place the person before the disability as a sigh of respect for the individual's uniqueness and worth, i.e. say 'person with disability' or 'person with epilepsy' rather than 'disabled person' or 'the epileptic'

If you have any questions regarding the treatment of the disabled please don't hesitate to call the Disability Service Office at 255-3354 or come visit us in Main Hall room 105.