The most important guideline in relating to someone with a disability is one with which we are already familiar – treat others as you would like to be treated and don’t be afraid to make mistakes.
Here are some examples:
Avoid making assumptions or generalizations. People with disabilities are not all alike. They have a wide variety of skills and personalities as we all do. Be careful not to assume that a person with one disability also has others.
Some people may have disabilities that are nonvisible such as respiratory disorders, epilepsy, emotional disorders and learning disabilities. Broaden your understanding of these kinds of disabilities and be sensitive to those workers who reveal their disabilities to you.
Don’t be afraid to offer assistance but don’t assume that it is needed. Be sure to follow his or her instructions to avoid injury to the person or yourself. Don’t be offended or hurt if the person declines assistance.
A guide dog or a service dog is usually working. Do not touch the animal or the person without first asking permission. Resist the temptation to offer treats to the service dog.
When speaking with a person with a disability, maintain eye contact and speak directly with the person rather than through a companion or sign language interpreter.
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 or shake with their left hand.
When meeting a person who is visually impaired, always identify yourself and others who may be with you. If you offer to assist the person in walking and he or she accepts, let the person take your arm as you walk forward.
To begin a conversation with a person who is deaf, gently tap the person’s arm or wave your hands. Look directly at the person and speak clearly and expressively to determine if the person can read your lips. If the person reads lips, be sure to keep hands, cigarettes and food away from your mouth when speaking.