• Valerie Carter

11 Examples of How to (and How to NOT!) Interact with a Person with a Disability

I have seen the good, the bad and the ugly ways people interact with children through adults with disabilities. Here are some do's and definite don'ts.


1. Do not stare or allow your children to stare at someone who looks or behaves differently.


2. Do not hesitate to speak to or greet someone with a disability, but don't speak loudly or put your hands on them. They could have sensory issues and raising your voice is never a good idea. Try simply smiling or using sign language in a friendly way.


3. If that person interacts with you, do not ignore them, or worse speak to those around them as if they are not there. Ignoring someone is always rude.


4. Do not say thoughtless comments to the individual or their family and friends. (i.e., "I am so sorry for you," "what a burden this must be for everyone," "how do you manage?" "what is wrong with him/her?"). Although a person with a disability may be sitting in a wheelchair or may not seem to understand your words, quite often they understand much more than you realize and everyone's feelings get hurt. Not good.


5. If someone is not responding to your attempts at communication, don't get mad and make unpleasant grumblings, the individual could have hearing and/or speech problems or have other interpersonal challenges. The person may even have an augmentative speech device and needs time to access their words.


6. If someone is slow moving in a wheelchair or with a walker or cane, do not barrel past them, but rather, be compassionate and accommodating and allow that person to pass. In many cultures, this is common practice.


7. Do offer assistance if the person truly seems to be struggling with something. However, know that many individuals with disabilities are focused on being independent and although some tasks do take them longer to perform, they often can and will complete them at their own pace. Try to understand and be respectful.


7. Do offer assistance if the person truly seems to be struggling with something. However, know that many individuals with disabilities are focused on being independent and although some tasks do take them longer to perform, they often can and will complete tmnderstand and be respectful.eing underestimated and spoken down to is extremely demeaning and embarrassing for the individual themselves as well as the companions to the person. mely demeaning and embarrassing for the individual themselves as well as the companions to the person. mely demeaning and embarrassing for the individual themselves as well as the companions to the person. mely demeaning and embarrassing for the individual themselves as well as the companions to the person. mely demeaning and embarrassing for the individual themselves as well as the companions to the person. mely demeaning and embarrassing for the individual thehemselves as well as the companions to the person. d spoken down to is extremely demeaning and embarrassing for the individual themselves as well as the companions to the person.


8. Be kind and considerate but do not be condescending. Whining-"you poor thing," "this is going to be too difficult for you," "I don't think it's a good to idea for you to be here, you'd be better off with those like you," "It's just going to be stressful for you trying to fit in," "I don't think you know how we like things done here," are examples of how not to be considerate. Give the person a chance. Being underestimated and spoken down to is extremely demeaning and embarrassing for the individual as well as their companions.


9. Don't make the person the brunt of jokes. Laugh with them, not at them.


10. Look the person in the eyes and see the person, not the disability.


11. Be nice.







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Tiburon, California, USA  /   valerie@gracesigns.org   /  415-712-1298

GraceSigns is a 501(c)3 Nonprofit, EIN# 473032197

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