Proper etiquette is important regardless of your ability level and age. While etiquette standards are not as strict as they used to be decades ago, there are still certain behaviors that are expected of you when you are out in public, at a social gathering, or a family event. The standards may waiver depending on those you are around, but there are still some etiquette rules that are imperative regardless of the situation. While we do not claim to be Emily Post, we will provide some tips on how to interact with those who have a disability.
1) Type of disability – The type of disability matters as you may act differently around someone who is in a wheelchair as compared to someone who is deaf. You would still treat the person with kindness and be friendly, but you may have to communicate with a deaf person in a different way than you would with someone who only has mobility challenges. Here are a few common types of disabilities that you may experience more than others.
a) Wheelchair – A wheelchair is considered an extension of the person’s body and should be treated as such. Think of a wheelchair as a person’s personal space. Avoid hanging on the chair, leaning on it, or sitting in it if the person is not in the chair. This can be very off putting behavior and cause the person in the chair to become annoyed.
b) Vision – Just because a person has loss of vision does not necessarily mean that they are unable to hear as well. The best tip when interacting with others who have a vision impairment is to announce who you are when you walk into the room. After awhile your voice will be a sign as to who is in the room but until the person with the vision impairment can decipher that, it is best to announce yourself.
c) Hearing – A hearing aid can assist with hearing loss but does not cure it. Be cognizant of the fact that you may have to move to a space that has little background noise to be able to have a conversation with someone who has a hard time hearing. It is natural to want to shout or talk louder when someone cannot hear you but avoid doing this as you will look foolish.
2) Allow your children to interact and ask questions – Children are often curious and want to know more about a person with disabilities, particularly if the person has a wheelchair or other tool that helps them get around. Do not discourage your child from asking questions and always remember that a person with disabilities is just like anyone else, they just happen to have a wheelchair. It is likely that the person who is disabled will not be put off by your child and may actually enjoy talking to him or her about it.
3) Offer help when needed but don’t be surprised if it is denied – People with disabilities have pride and want to do things on their own. Try not to coddle the person and make them feel as if they are unable to do things for themselves. It is best to empower them to do things on their own and offer to assist but do not get offended or hurt if they turn the offer down.
No matter if you are a salesperson offering lightweight wheelchairs for sale or you are a family member, there are ways in which you should behave around someone with a disability. Treating them as normal as possible is always a good idea.