Commandments of Etiquette for Communicating with People with
Outlined below are the Ten Commandments of Etiquette for
Communicating with People with Disabilities to help you in
communicating with persons with disabilities.
When talking with a person with a disability,
speak directly to that person rather than through a companion or sign language
When introduced to a person with a
disability, it is appropriate to offer to shake hands. People with limited hand
use or who wear an artificial limb can usually shake hands. (Shaking hands with
the left hand is an acceptable greeting.)
When meeting a person who is visually
impaired, always identify yourself and others who may be with you. When
conversing in a group, remember to identify the person to whom you are speaking.
If you offer assistance, wait until the offer
is accepted. Then listen to or ask for instructions.
Treat adults as adults. Address people who
have disabilities by their first names only when extending the same familiarity
to all others. (Never patronize people who use wheelchairs by patting them on
the head or shoulder.)
Leaning on or hanging on to a person's
wheelchair is similar to leaning on hanging on to a person and is generally
considered annoying. The chair is part of the personal body space of the person
who uses it.
Listen attentively when you're talking with a
person who has difficulty speaking. Be patient and wait for the person to
finish, rather than correcting or speaking for the person. If necessary, ask
short questions that require short answers, a nod or shake of the head. Never
pretend to understand if you are having difficulty doing so. Instead, repeat
what you have understood and allow the person to respond. The response will clue
you in and guide your understanding.
When speaking with a person who uses a
wheelchair or a person who uses crutches, place yourself at eye level in front
of the person to facilitate the conversation.
To get the attention of a person who is deaf,
tap the person on the shoulder or wave your hand. Look directly at the person
and speak clearly, slowly, and expressively to determine if the person can read
your lips. Not all people who are deaf can read lips. For those who do lip read,
be sensitive to their needs by placing yourself so that you face the light
source and keep hands, cigarettes and food away from your mouth when speaking.
Relax. Don't be embarrassed if you happen to
use accepted, common expressions such as "See you later," or "Did you hear about
that?" that seems to relate to a person's disability. Don't be afraid to ask
questions when you're unsure of what to do.
Source: Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP)
President's Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities
Communicating With and About People with Disabilities (Adobe file)
Web link to:
RTCIL Home Page
Guidelines for reporting and writing about people with disabilities (word
Disability Etiquette - Unite Spinal Association (36 pages pdf file)
Tips on Interacting with People with Disabilities.
With and About People with Disabilities (2 pg pfd file)