A recent article in the September/October 2009 issue of inMotion magazine, entitled “Disability Etiquette” makes a few valuable points about helping someone with a disability. I wanted to share this with you, hoping that it will influence your next interaction with someone managing life in a wheelchair, on crutches or with another disability.
The article talks about how a well-intentioned offering of assistance may in fact be viewed as very offensive to someone who feels comfortable with the task at hand. It’s critically important to remember that everyone takes pride in controlling their own lives; and that disabled individuals are often capable of navigating nearly all areas of their life without assistance.
A few rules to remember when offering assistance to someone with a disability:
- Ask if the individual would like assistance, and do so only after it appears that they actually need help. Don’t assume that every potential barrier could be made better with your participation. Doing so actually shows more disrespect for the individual’s abilities than you might think.
- Respect the person’s personal space and equipment by refraining from reaching out unless invited to do so.
- Speak to a person with a disability as you would anyone else. Make eye contact on their level, not as though you are talking over them. Make sure your workplace provides a comfortable environment for interaction with disabled individuals.
For more information about Disability Etiquette, refer to the United Spinal Association’s “Disability Etiquette Handbook“. InMotion Magazine is published by the Amputee Coalition of America.