Have you ever unintentionally offended a person with a disability or did something the person felt was condescending? In light of the ever-increasing numbers of people in the U.S. today who have missing limbs or are challenged with either acquired or congenital disabilities, it has become easier than ever to make incorrect assumptions about these individual’s abilities. To help avoid this in the future, the following are some ideas on how to respectfully communicate with individuals with disabilities:
Don’t judge or assume anything about a person’s disability. He or she deserves to be treated with dignity and the same respect you would accord to everyone else. The fact of the matter is that a disabled person may not want or need anyone’s help in a given situation. One simple solution is to ask: Opening a door or keeping it open after you’ve gone through ahead of them (without making a big production of it), is one example. Being in a wheelchair doesn’t mean the person can’t fend for themselves while out in public, or because someone has a speech impediment doesn’t necessarily mean they have a mental impairment. Spur-of-the-moment assumptions about a disabled person can often be harmful or embarrassing to those involved, rather than helpful.
Speak directly to the person, not above them.
If you don’t understand what the person is saying, don’t pretend that you do. It’s okay to ask them to repeat what was just said.
Respect personal space and do not lean on the person’s wheelchair or walker or touch a service animal unless receiving permission to do so.
Don’t patronize. Nothing is more offensive to human nature than being patronized.
Be patient. With a little effort on your part, you will understand what is being said, or the situation will resolve itself as the wheelchair-bound individual gets through the line you happen to be caught in.
Don’t be afraid to offer assistance, if appropriate, but do not insist or be offended if your offer is not accepted.
Do not assume the person cannot participate in an activity. Always give him or her the benefit of the doubt.
AAging Better has provided care for disabled newborns to the very elderly for over 10 years. If you would like to find out more about how home care can help persons with disabilities stay safely and appropriately at home, rather than be relegated to a nursing home or other care facility, contact us online or give us a call at 208-777-0308 if you’re in the Post Falls, Coeur d’Alene or Hayden areas; 208-263-7889 if in the Sandpoint, Bonners Ferry or Priest River areas; or 208-784-1505 if you’re in the Kellogg, Pinehurst or Wallace areas. We would be happy to set up a free in-home assessment to discuss your needs or those of your loved one.